Attacks on civilians in Myanmar ‘crimes against humanity’: UN | News of Crimes Against Humanity

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The head of the United Nations body that investigates the most serious crimes in Myanmar has said that preliminary evidence collected since the military took power on February 1 shows a widespread and systematic attack on civilians “amounting to crimes against humanity. “.

Nicholas Koumjian told UN journalists on Friday that the Independent Investigation Mechanism for Myanmar, which he heads, has received more than 200,000 communications since the army seizure and has collected more than 1.5 million pieces of evidence that are being analyzed “so that one day those most responsible for the serious international crimes committed in Myanmar will be prosecuted.”

Determining that crimes against civilians appear to be widespread and systematic, he said investigators saw patterns of violence: a measured response by security forces to demonstrations in the first six weeks after the military seizure of power followed by “a rebound of violence and much more violent methods to repress the protesters ”.

“This was happening in different places at the same time, which indicates to us that it would be logical to conclude that it was a central policy,” Koumjian said.

“And, also, we saw that particular groups were targeted, especially for arrests and detentions that appear to be without due process of law. And this includes, of course, journalists, medical workers and political opponents. “

Myanmar for 50 years had languished under a strict military regime that led to isolation and international sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in the rise to leadership of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most of the sanctions and investing in the country.

The February 1 coup followed the November elections in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won overwhelmingly and the army rejected as fraudulent.

Since the military takeover, Myanmar has been plagued by unrest, with peaceful demonstrations against ruling generals transforming first into a low-level armed uprising in many urban areas after security forces used deadly force and then more serious fighting. in rural areas, especially in border regions where ethnic minority militias have been involved in heavy clashes with government troops.

Christine Schraner Burgener told The Associated Press news agency shortly before the end of her three-and-a-half-year term as UN special envoy for Myanmar on October 31 that the “civil war” has raged across the country.

The UN investigative body was established by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in September 2018 with a mandate to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar. .

Koumjian, an American lawyer who served as an international prosecutor for serious crimes committed in Cambodia, East Timor and Bosnia, was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as his chief in 2019 with instructions to prepare files that can facilitate the criminal prosecutions at the national level. regional or international courts to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Koumjian said his team has been collecting evidence from a wide variety of sources, including individuals, organizations, businesses and governments, and the evidence includes photographs, videos, testimonies, and social media posts “that could be relevant to showing that crimes occurred. and who is responsible for those crimes ”.

The investigating body has received information from social media companies, which it would not name except Facebook because it had made its cooperation public.

“We started engaging with Facebook as soon as we were created in 2019, and they have been meeting with us regularly,” Koumjian said. “We have received some, but certainly not all, of those that we have requested. We continue to negotiate with them and, in fact, I hope that we will receive more information. “

He said that the Human Rights Council specifically instructed investigators to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the crimes committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority and the case before the International Court of Justice brought by the Gambia on behalf of the Organization. of Islamic Cooperation accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya.

“So we are sharing documents with those procedures,” Koumjian said.

The legal actions stem from the Myanmar military’s tough campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign that includes mass rapes, killings and house burning.

Koujian said: “All we are doing is collecting evidence of the worst violence and hopefully sending a message to the perpetrators: ‘If you do this, you risk being held accountable.”

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