STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Will Myanmar's genocide generals ever face justice?

Myanmar's ruling junta of generals and its ineffectual civilian government has little to fear from the inter...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 7:49 PM

Myanmar's ruling junta of generals and its ineffectual civilian government has little to fear from the international community -- for now.

On Monday a United Nations fact finding mission investigating Myanmar's treatment of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh last year recommended the country's military leaders be prosecuted for genocide.

Asia

Aung San Suu Kyi

Bangladesh

Continents and regions

Crimes against humanity

Ethnic conflicts

Genocide

Government organizations - Intl

Human rights

Human rights violations

International Criminal Court

International law

International relations

International relations and national security

Law and legal system

Minority and ethnic groups

Myanmar

Political Figures - Intl

Rohingya people

Society

South Asia

Southeast Asia

United Nations

United Nations Security Council

Unrest, conflicts and war

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal offenses

Military

Sex and gender issues

Sex crimes

Sexual assault

For that to happen, however, the United Nations Security Council needs to refer it to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. That looks unlikely.

"The UN Security Council is paralyzed, the fact that it hasn't moved on Syria or Yemen just undermines the whole operation of the Council, it undermines the international criminal court and its ability to actually bring about international justice," said Cecilia Jacobs, a senior lecturer at the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific in Canberra.

Myanmar rejects the findings and the accusations. When the UN Human Rights Council decided last year to send the mission to investigate, the Myanmar foreign minister said investigators would "do more to inflame, rather than resolve the issues at this time."

On Tuesday, Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar's presidential office, told CNN via text message that the government had already formed its own independent commission and there was no comment on the mission's findings.

State Counselor and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was singled out in the UN mission's statements, saying that she "has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine State."

No expectation of domestic justice

The damning UN report contains allegations of murder, imprisonment and sexual violence against the Rohingyas, carried out by the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw.

"Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages. The Tatmadaw's tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar," the report said.

However, there was no possibility that Myanmar's investigation would ever really hold anyone senior accountable, says Aaron Connelly, a research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

"I make the case that Aung San Suu Kyi and this government has absolutely no intention to prosecute in any kind of transparent or balanced way crimes against humanity in Rakhine State," he told CNN. "I wouldn't be surprised if they go after some of the Rohingya militants, but they're not going to really go after the commanders who ordered these attacks."

The Myanmar government has long claimed that its actions were in response to an attack on police outposts by Rohingya militants said to belong to the ARSA insurgent group.

Connelly said there might be "token prosecutions of enlisted personnel or junior officers," but as in the case of two Reuters journalists facing trial in Myanmar for their reporting on the Rohingya, "they've actually prosecuted more people involved in revealing the massacre than they have people involved in the massacre, so we're unlikely to see domestic accountability."

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, have been charged under the state's Official Secrets Act and face up to 14 years of jail for their reporting on the Rohingya Muslim minority and the hundreds of thousands who fled to Bangladesh last year to escape violence and official persecution.

Depending on the UN Security Council

An absence of justice at home leaves the international community few options, particularly if the UN Security Council itself is unlikely to help, for several reasons.

Myanmar's main ally in the Security Council is China, and China has long defended the once isolated regime while the rest of the world has tried to sanction Myanmar's generals over the years for their political persecution of democracy activists, including in the past, Aung San Suu Kyi herself.

Russia has often sided with China against the other members of the Council.

Yet the administration of US President Trump, in particular his national security adviser John Bolton, is also unwilling to refer cases to the International Criminal Court because of the precedent it would set.

"The US mission to the UN has made it known that they're not going to make any ICC referrals at least as long as the prosecutors seek to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan," noted Connelly. "John Bolton is also Enemy No.1 of the ICC, and has let it be known that there won't be any referrals as long as he's the national security adviser."

Another path to justice

There is another way, one which lawyers including Toby Cadman have pursued without having to deal with the UN at all.

"What we're trying to do is to get the International Criminal Court to use Bangladesh's territorial jurisdiction and look at forced displacement, and they have the jurisdiction to do that," he told CNN.

Because Myanmar isn't a party to the ICC, the international body has no jurisdiction to bring charges there. But the flight of hundreds of thousands of people from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh -- which is a signatory -- might give the ICC an opening and an opportunity to still prosecute for genocide, Cadman argues.

"The forced displacement is an element of genocidal intent, it's to remove the Rohingya from Myanmar by forcing them out by killing, raping and looting. The forcing is an element. That's something the court may decide," he said.

Cadman, head of chambers at Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, has filed an amicus brief, along with other advocates, to the International Criminal Court to deliberate. A pre-trial chamber has to make that decision, he told CNN, and expects that announcement to come at any time.

"The ICC has jurisdiction, but again, we're looking at many many months, if not years if we see trials," Cadman said. "Slowly the wheels of international justice move, and they do move and that is the appropriate way forward."

The mission for evidence continues

In the meantime, it is imperative that human rights groups and international bodies continue to gather evidence to use should those trials ever go ahead, said Australian National University's Cecilia Jacobs.

"The fact finding mission and this report has been really crucial in building up the evidence for the prosecution, and there's nothing stopping the international community to gather (more) evidence," she said.

She blames the West's early encouragement of Myanmar's tentative outreach to the world after years of isolation as part of the reason the international community has so little sway with Myanmar now.

"I think they acted too early, and gave too many concessions before any meaningful political transition occurred, that has really left them without much leverage, and I think a lot of the behind the scenes diplomatic work that went on wasn't enough without the cooperation of the UN Security Council," she said.

The failure of the Security Council is less a criticism of the institutions supporting the UN, and more result of "the countries that interact with each other and use their prerogative to thwart action," said Connelly from the Lowy Institute.

"The failure here is in national capitals, not in Turtle Bay (home to UN headquarters in New York). The UN system has held up pretty admirably," he argues. "All those missions did their jobs and fearlessly came out with conclusions which at the time were quite shocking and they didn't hold back."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 95659

Reported Deaths: 2056
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26960930
Ramsey10911320
Dakota7524126
Anoka6092133
Stearns401024
Washington379955
Scott257433
Olmsted244628
Nobles197116
Blue Earth16996
Wright16327
St. Louis160241
Carver14197
Clay138940
Rice13358
Mower13285
Sherburne115014
Kandiyohi10112
Winona88718
Lyon6954
Waseca6698
Benton5523
Steele5472
Freeborn5424
Nicollet54016
Watonwan5284
Crow Wing51618
Todd4952
Chisago4941
McLeod4882
Le Sueur4674
Otter Tail4414
Beltrami4215
Martin40810
Goodhue3659
Itasca32814
Pine3280
Douglas3102
Polk3054
Isanti2971
Becker2802
Carlton2701
Morrison2492
Dodge2390
Cottonwood2250
Pipestone22510
Chippewa2141
Meeker2022
Wabasha1960
Sibley1923
Brown1912
Yellow Medicine1822
Cass1804
Rock1730
Unassigned17052
Redwood1673
Mille Lacs1643
Murray1642
Renville1518
Jackson1481
Faribault1450
Swift1381
Houston1280
Kanabec1258
Roseau1230
Koochiching1223
Fillmore1200
Pennington1191
Lincoln1110
Hubbard1031
Stevens1031
Pope940
Big Stone820
Aitkin801
Wadena690
Wilkin653
Grant614
Lake590
Lac qui Parle581
Norman540
Marshall521
Mahnomen481
Red Lake451
Traverse310
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods221
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 85533

Reported Deaths: 1305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15872262
Woodbury544764
Johnson512627
Black Hawk448990
Linn4010111
Story344417
Dubuque325741
Scott301128
Dallas278538
Pottawattamie211338
Buena Vista199112
Marshall178434
Sioux16183
Wapello133357
Webster125514
Plymouth114121
Clinton112121
Muscatine110855
Crawford10885
Cerro Gordo105721
Warren9566
Jasper83832
Des Moines7848
Marion7637
Henry7434
Tama71331
Carroll6625
Lee6377
Wright5811
Dickinson5276
Boone5078
Bremer4927
Washington45911
Louisa42915
Mahaska41219
Delaware4023
Floyd3493
Jackson3493
Franklin34818
Winneshiek3356
Clay3264
Lyon3264
Hamilton3223
Benton3101
Winnebago30313
Hardin2991
Poweshiek2958
Buchanan2791
Jones2743
Butler2702
Kossuth2700
Shelby2671
Clarke2653
Emmet26510
Allamakee2616
Clayton2523
Chickasaw2500
Sac2500
Cherokee2492
Cedar2461
Guthrie2456
Fayette2222
Harrison2223
Grundy2203
Madison2192
Iowa2091
Palo Alto2020
Humboldt1903
Mitchell1900
Howard1886
Hancock1842
Calhoun1833
Mills1801
Page1700
Cass1682
Osceola1610
Monroe15911
Pocahontas1592
Lucas1566
Monona1531
Jefferson1381
Appanoose1363
Union1353
Taylor1301
Davis1244
Ida1221
Fremont1180
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1091
Worth1080
Greene1010
Montgomery965
Wayne862
Audubon821
Adair721
Decatur670
Ringgold502
Adams330
Unassigned170
Rochester
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Mason City
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 56°
Albert Lea
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Austin
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Few Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Much Cooler Week Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events