Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal: Myanmar state crimes against Rohingya and other Ethnic Minorities

February 26, 2017

Kachin and Rohingya activists in diaspora launch an international
opinion tribunal on Myanmar's atrocity crimes against their
communities at home

The Rome-based Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) will be holding the
inaugural session of its first-ever Tribunal on Myanmar at Queen Mary
University of London International State Crime Initiative on 6 and 7

The establishment of this people’s tribunal is in response to the
requests made by Myanmar’s Rohingya and Kachin victims who have made
credible allegations that their respective ethnic communities have
suffered international crimes at the hands of Myanmar government
troops, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
Subsequent tribunal hearings are envisaged in in USA and Malaysia
before the jury reach the verdict later this year.

The PPT includes renowned genocide scholars such as Daniel Feierstein,
past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars,
Dr Helen Jarvis, former Public Affairs Officer at the Khmer Rouge
Tribunal, Dennis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary of the UN and
winner of Gandhi International Peace Award (2003).  The Tribunal is in
the process of selecting members of the Panel of Jury from amongst a
list of public figures whose nominations are based on their
established personal integrity, professional competence and concerns
for the victims. Among the experts who will appear before the PPT will
be Dr Mandy Sadan, Associate Dean of Research at School of African and
Oriental Studies, University of London & author of Being & Becoming
Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Borderworlds of Burma
(Oxford University Press, 2013), Professor Penny Green of the
International State Crime Initiative, and Azril Mohammad Amin of the
Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), Malaysia.

“The gravity of Myanmar’s alleged mistreatment of these ethnic
communities has been a concern for us at the PPT for a number of
years.  My colleagues and I are glad to be able to respond positively
to the victims’ request for a credible moral tribunal on what appear
to be international crimes being committed by the government of
Myanmar,” said Dr Gianni Tognoni, Secretary General of Permanent
Peoples’ Tribunal.

The People’s Tribunal has a long history as an effective means of
transforming communities marred by state sponsored crimes. It has
convened forty-three times to deliver judgments that have guided
societies through such struggles as post-colonialism, globalization,
war, and economic injustice. It is renowned for its rigorous selection
criteria for its jury members.

Hkanhpa Sadan, the General Secretary of the Kachin National
Organization (KNO), representing many in the Kachin diaspora, said,
“Our Kachin people have been crying out for justice and accountability
since the Myanmar government unilaterally ended the 14-year ceasefire
with the Kachin Independence Organization nearly 6 years ago.  While
talking up democratic transition in the media, Myanmar government has
been bombing – even using fighter jets and gunship helicopters – our
communities in Northern Myanmar, displacing thousands of our people,
including women, elderly, children and infants from their own homes.”
He pointed that Myanmar is blocking humanitarian assistance and
supplies to Kachin war refugees while refusing to permit the UN
Special Rapporteur Professor Yanghee Lee access to the area last month
to travel to the internally displaced people (IDP) camps where IDP
thousands of families are freezing in make-shift camps in the high
altitude mountainous, with little food or medical supplies.

Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Association UK, a
participating organization, expresses his appreciation for the PPT
staff for the tribunal.  “We Rohingyas are grateful that this tribunal
effort is materializing at this crucial juncture.  Generations of us
Rohingya have suffered what we experience as a genocide in our own
ancestral lands.”  He continues, “my grandfather was a proud Rohingya
parliamentary secretary in democratic Burma in the 1950’s, and in
2017, my family and I are refugees in UK now. We are subject to
Myanmar’s policy of extermination because of our religion and

On the western frontier region of Rakhine, Myanmar troops have been
accused of “very likely” committing crimes against humanity by the
United Nations Human Rights Commissioner’s team.   On 3 February the
UN Office of High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a 43-page
report of interviews with 200+ persecution-fleeing Rohingya men and
women in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, which detailed harrowing accounts
of rape, gang-rape, wanton killings, arson, helicopter and rocket
launcher attacks and other numerous forms of inhumane atrocities
against unarmed, peaceful Rohingyas.

The UN report states,” “The testimonies gathered by the team – the
killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire
at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention;
massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate
destruction of food and sources of food – speak volumes of the
apparent disregard by Tatmadaw and BGP officers that operate in the
lockdown zone for international human rights law, in particular the
total disdain for the right to life of Rohingyas.”

For decades, the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma have suffered state
crimes that many human rights investigators and scholars conclude
amount to crimes against humanity and even a “slow genocide” as stated
by Amartya Sen. They have been stripped of their citizenship and
rendered stateless; prohibited from travelling even between villages;
forbidden from obtaining education or gainful employment; forced into
labour; physically brutalized including extrajudicial killings, rape,
and torture; driven from their burning homes and villages; and
dehumanized because of their faith & skin colour.

In addition to Rohingya and Kachin organizations in diaspora,
International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of
London, Burma Task Force USA, JUST and the Centre for Human Rights
Research and Advocacy (Centhra) from Malaysia, USA-based Genocide
Watch, South Africa’s Protect the Rohingya and Burmese Muslim
Association are supporting the tribunal.   Cambodia Genocide survivor
and genocide prevention campaigner Youk Chhang and Burmese genocide
scholar Dr Maung Zarni are also among the tribunal’s individual

Within the United Nations, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights
situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has reportedly said that she will
be recommending a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Rohingyas in
her official Mission report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva,
which she is scheduled to present on 13 March.

Myanmar’s hybrid government of Aung San Suu Kyi and the military has
responded to these serious international crimes allegations first by
dismissing them as “fake news” and later setting up its own “national
investigation commission” headed by ex-general and Vice President
Myint Swe. UN Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention Adama Dieng has
officially dismissed Myanmar’s national commission as “not a credible
option” while Ms Yanghee Lee said, “it doesn’t even have the
methodology” to investigate the atrocity crimes.





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