Myanmar: In race in opposition to time, specialists acquire proof of rights violations

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Understanding of Geneva, there are specialists in gender violence and crimes in opposition to kids; analysts with expertise in worldwide justice; specialists in open supply proof; and investigators working with subtle info methods.  

The group of execs are formally often called the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, (IIMM) or Myanmar Mechanism, and was created in 2018 by the Human Rights Council

The Mechanism was established after an  Independent International Fact-Finding Mission discovered “clear patterns” of violations by the army, often called the Tatmadaw, and insisted that the perpetrators of the “gross human rights violations”, together with these in opposition to the Rohingya, should not go unpunished. 

The IIMM is just not a courtroom, neither does it have the ability to prosecute. The hope is that each one the info that may in any other case be misplaced, is preserved, and then shared with nationwide, regional or worldwide courts.  

In an intensive interview with UN Information, the top of the Mechanism, Nicholas Koumjian, explains the significance of preserving this proof earlier than it is doubtlessly misplaced.  

“Crime scenes get disturbed, our bodies decompose, wounds can heal, individuals’s recollections can fade, witnesses with info can cross away”, he explains. “So it’s crucial to gather the data when you can.” 

The interview has been edited for readability and size. 

UN Information: You and your colleagues have been working for over two years. What has been your focus? What has been achieved up to now? 

Nicholas Koumjian: We began two years in the past, in July of 2019, and we have been increase the Mechanism, buying all of the experience that we consider could be mandatory.  

We have now these with experience in Worldwide Legal legislation, in issues like gender violence, investigation of crimes in opposition to kids, investigation of sexual assaults, analysts with expertise in very complicated worldwide circumstances. 

We have now these with expertise in utilizing open supply proof and really subtle and safe info methods, in order that the data that we acquire and protect, is held confidentially and nobody has entry to it, and that additionally permits us to analyse the very huge portions of information that we’ve got collected. 

We’re now trying on the proof that we have collected, over two million items, and analysing that in varied conditions, that we consider have the potential to quantity to felony circumstances in opposition to people chargeable for these offences. 

UN Information: Are there any preliminary conclusions? Are you able to share any? 

Nicholas Koumjian: What’s totally different about our mechanism is that we’re not likely a reporting mechanism. We’re not a courtroom or prosecution service. We’re amassing the proof and getting ready information to share them with these courts which may, or judicial authorities which may have the authority, and the willingness, to carry honest proceedings to carry people to account.  

We have particularly been requested to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, which has an investigation associated to Rakhine State [home to many of those mostly-Rohingya Muslims who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh], and we’re doing that. 

We even have been requested by the events on the International Court of Justice to share proof, and we checked out that state of affairs. We need to assist the judges in that case attain the perfect determination, and so we have agreed to search for related proof that we will share, with the permission of those who supplied it to us.

 🎧 Listen to the interview with Mr. Koumjian.

Nicolas Koumjian, Head of the Independant Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

Nicolas Koumjian, Head of the Independant Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar., by UN Picture/ Jean Marc Ferré

UN Information: Are you able to inform me the way you’re conducting this work with out gaining access to the nation?  

Nicholas Koumjian: It is unlucky that we do not have entry. The Human Rights Council particularly requested Myanmar to cooperate with us and we have reached out to them and we’ll proceed to achieve out and search cooperation and entry to the nation, to the crime scenes, and to witnesses inside Myanmar after we can achieve this safely. 

UN Information: Do you may have any hope that it might occur at any time quickly? 

Nicholas Koumjian: I do not assume there’s a right away prospect of that taking place. However what I’ve realized is, in Worldwide Legal legislation, and usually in historical past, it is very exhausting to foretell the longer term. Issues can change a lot faster than we imagined, so we’ll proceed to achieve out and hope that issues do change and that we’ll ultimately have entry. 

UN Information: Concerning the army coup in in February, has it impacted your work? If so, in what methods? 

Nicholas Koumjian: We stated, when the coup first occurred, that the change of presidency itself, the overthrow of the constitutional authority, the query of honest elections and democratic course of, is just not inside our mandate, which is restricted to probably the most critical worldwide crimes and violations of worldwide legislation. 

However we stated that we have been very involved, given the historical past of Myanmar, of so many crimes in opposition to civilians occurring in political conflicts, that we’d be watching the state of affairs carefully.  

What we have seen since then is, sadly, that it seems that very critical crimes have been taking place, all through the nation, in numerous areas, systematically and on a widespread foundation. So, we’re amassing that info. 

Many various sources have been voluntarily reaching out to us to offer us with info. 

Others we’ve got contacted. I consider we obtained over 200,000 communications simply within the first few months after the coup, so it is elevated the burden on us, however it’s additionally given us the alternative to have extra people and organizations keen to talk to us, extra alternatives to speak to those that have details about what is going on or has occurred previously in Myanmar. And this has created some alternatives for investigations. 

UN Information: Is it right to say that a few of these investigations, a number of the info you are amassing, would not in any other case occur, or be collected, in case your mechanism did not exist? 

Nicholas Koumjian: Sure, I consider that it is completely honest to say that. 

I’ve labored on totally different battle crime tribunals, totally different processes to hunt accountability, and one of many issues that we have seen in different conflicts is the significance of preserving info whereas it is nonetheless recent, when you can, as a result of, after all, crime scenes get disturbed, our bodies decompose, wounds can heal, individuals’s recollections can fade, witnesses with info can die, can cross away with out that info being collected. 

So, it is crucial to gather the data when you can, as a result of sadly worldwide justice typically is a protracted course of. 

I got here to the Myanmar mechanism from being the co-prosecutor on the Extraordinary Chambers for the courts in Cambodia, in any other case often called the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which was trying into crimes dedicated between 1975 to 1979. 

Even in 2019, 40 years after these crimes have been dedicated, that course of was ongoing, and the proof was getting used. Fortuitously, lots of the proof that was used there had been collected by a civil society group, DC-Cam, within the Nineties, and that was very useful to us. 

So we predict what we’re doing now is essential, to protect the proof in order that sometime – and we hope it definitely will probably be a lot ahead of 40 years –  this proof can be utilized in courts that may maintain these chargeable for crimes accountable.  

UN NEWS: Whenever you discuss info and proof, what are you speaking about? Digital communications? Forensic proof?  

Nicholas Koumjian: It is a broad class of data. We will probably be amassing info from people, generally interviewing people, amassing info that totally different organizations have beforehand collected, consolidating that, and analysing it. 

Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, is one of the largest in the world. and hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who fled violence in Myanmar.

Taking a look at digital info, taking a look at photographic and video info, analysing that with probably the most trendy info applied sciences. We will find the place movies have been taken and establish the duplicates, as a result of we’re getting so many 1000’s and 1000’s of movies and images, this is essential for us to do.  

UN NEWS: And also you’re getting these from civil society organizations? Folks within the nation? 

Nicholas Koumjian: We’re getting it from a broad vary of various sources, and naturally one of many fundamental premises of our work is that we do not title the people or organizations that we obtained the data from. However I might say from a really broad vary of various sorts, organizations, companies, people, many several types of sources. 

UN NEWS: You spoke about having justice. What does it seem like on this case? 

Nicholas Koumjian: I feel in Myanmar, as in lots of different conflicts all over the world, many, many individuals have suffered. A few of them proceed to undergo. There are a whole lot of 1000’s of refugees residing exterior of their houses, both inside Myanmar or exterior the borders of the nation, desirous to go dwelling. 

Sadly, the crimes that they fled from proceed to happen ultimately or one other, so they do not really feel it is secure to go dwelling. 

A part of justice is assuring that those that dedicated crimes beforehand with impunity will now be held accountable, in order that hopefully that may deter future crimes from occurring, and that the individuals of Myanmar who suffered can have some hope that these crimes will finish and that they may obtain some justice for what occurred to themselves or to their members of the family.


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