World’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Organizations, Myanmar Refugee Activists and Academics to Establish People’s Tribunal on Myanmar and Hold its Inaugural Sessions in London on 6 and 7 March
March 3, 2017
LONDON: Rome-Based Secretariat of the Permanent People’s Tribunal has taken up the cause of Rohingya and Kachin victims who have been subjected to numerous international crimes at the hands of Myanmar government. In his message to the opening ceremony to be held at the International State Crimes Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, the Dalai Lama has repeated his appeal to Myanmar Buddhists, including Aung San Suu Kyi and her Buddhist supporters, to end violence against Muslims.
Among the grassroots organizers of the Tribunal are UK-based Kachin, Rohingya and Burmese human rights campaigners who have been displaced and/or forced into exile by the Myanmar government.
The representatives of Kachin and Rohingya victim communities will bring forth the charges before the jury panel that the Myanmar government is committing crimes under international law, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against ethnic and religious minorities, in particular Rohingya and Kachin communities in their respective ancestral homes in the Western and Northern regions of the country.
The inaugural session in London will be hosted at, and webcast live from, the International State Crime Initiative of Queen Mary University of London on 6 March (1000 GMT to 1800 GMT) and 7 March (1000 GMT – 1300 GMT). The opening session will end with a press conference at Noon GMT. Subsequent sessions are envisaged for New York City and Kuala Lumpur before the final verdict is issued.
(For the venue address, see https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/permanent-peoples-tribunal-myanmar-state-crimes-against-rohingya-and-other-ethnic-minorities-tickets-31967250908?aff=es2)
The tribunal sessions which are open to public, can be viewed live at http://tribunalonmyanmar.org/ and followed on twitter @MyanmarTribunal
Notes to Editors.
The People’s Tribunal on Myanmar has been endorsed by over 20 Rohingya, Kachin and Burmese organizations worldwide, International State Crime Initiative of Queen Mary University of London, S. Africa’s Protect the Rohingya Campaign, Genocide Watch, Burma Task Force USA, Malaysian human rights networks such as the International Movement for a Just World and Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), and individual genocide prevention campaigners including Youk Chhang of Cambodia.
The tribunal has also received a moral boost from the Dalai Lama, who has sent a written statement of appeal to Burmese Buddhists to end to Rohingya persecution, which will be read and webcast live during the opening session of the international people’s tribunal on Myanmar.
The world renowned Tibetan Buddhist leader writes, “All the world’s major religions convey a message of peace and compassion, so it is especially saddening when we hear of the violence being used in the name of religion like the very unfortunate events concerning the Muslim community in Burma”, in reference to the predominantly Buddhist country’s persecution of Rohingya minority in Western Burmese state of Northern Rakhine.
The Dalai Lama speaks of his personal appeal to the fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi,” … I have made public appeal and also privately communicated to (her) to use her influence to bring about a peaceful resolution to this problem.”
Similar appeals to Aung San Suu Kyi have been made, to no avail, by her long-time supporters and/or friends including former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevi, veteran anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu, Professor Amartya Sen and George Soros among others.
Both Suu Kyi and her senior colleagues in the ruling National League for Democracy party – not just the powerful military – have denied vehemently any allegations of international crimes committed against Rohingya communities by the government.
In the country’s mountainous Northern and Eastern regions, the Burmese army has been waging a ferocious military campaign against the Kachin, using fighter-jets and gunship helicopters since the bilateral written ceasefire of 17 years broke down 6 years ago. The war has displaced an estimated 100,000 Kachin and other residents. Ms Suu Kyi has accused Kachin leaders (and other ethnic groups) of ‘lacking (the) moral courage’ to sign the ceasefire agreement, which does not address the fundamental political issues such as federalist power-sharing. Meanwhile, she has maintained complete silence over Myanmar troops and its alleged war crimes against the Kachin.
During a press conference in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw on 1 March, General Mya Tun Oo, Chief of the General Staff and former Chief of Military Intelligence, dismissed the allegations as “reckless”, while the senior aide to Aung San Suu Kyi, ex-Captain Win Htein, lashed out at the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Professor Yanghee Lee who is writing a report for the UN Human Rights Council as “biased”. Win Htein told AFP, “we do not care about this kind of unfair report. Because we do not care, we do not worry.”
Yanghee Lee is scheduled to present her findings of her weeks-long investigation in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the UN in Geneva on 13 March, and is pressing the UN body to mandate a Commission of Inquiry into the ‘very likely’ crimes against humanity. UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office has issued a 43-page Flash Report, detailing patterns of sexual violence, summary execution, arson, destruction of communities, wanton killing of babies, burning elderly people alive in Rohingya region of Western Burma.
According to a Reuter’s report, Keith Harper, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, backs the call for the Commission of Inquiry, which he calls “heavy medicine reserved for the most horrendous human rights cases”. Harper stresses that “even accepting that Suu Kyi does not sufficiently control the military, she has utterly failed to utilize her considerable bully pulpit which would undoubtedly be impactful” on the situation of Rohingya.
The inaugural sessions of the people’s tribunal come in the midst of international allegations and Myanmar’s denials. The Jury will hear the videotaped testimonies of Rohingya rape victims of Myanmar army and other human rights crimes, and testimonies by Kachin eyewitnesses to the war crimes committed by Myanmar troops in Northern and Eastern border regions of Myanmar.
Among the representatives of Kachin and Rohingya victim communities who will provide testimonies are Hkanhpa Sadan, the General Secretary of the Kachin National Organization (KNO), and his colleagues Kai Htang Lashi and Ring Du Lachyung; Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Association UK, Ronnie of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization and Ro Nay San Lwin of the Rohingya Blogger.
A long-time Burmese activist and scholar on Myanmar politics Dr Maung Zarni will join Professor Penny Green, who directs International State Crimes Initiative at Queen Mary University of London and Dr Mandy Sadan, a leading expert on Kachin, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and author of Being & Becoming Kachin: Histories Beyond the State in the Border worlds of Burma (Oxford University Press, 2013).
Videotaped presentations on Rohingya identity and persecution by SOAS Professor Michael Charney and Professor Amartya Sen of Harvard University will also be webcast live.
A 6-member team of Malaysian human rights lawyers led by Azril Mohd Amin, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) will travel to London to offer their expert testimonies based on their interviews with 30 Rohingya victims of Myanmar’s human rights crimes.
The Rome-based Secretariat for the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) is providing Myanmar campaigners with the professional leadership in setting up the tribunal on Myanmar, which is modelled after the renowned Sartre-Russell tribunal of the anti-Vietnam war era, which tried the United States Government on allegations of war crimes in Vietnam. PPT has a long history as an effective means of transforming communities marred by state sponsored crimes. It has convened forty-three times to deliver judgements that have guided societies through such struggles as post-colonialism, globalization, war, and economic injustice. It is well-known for its rigorous selection criteria for its jury members.
Supported by grassroots activists, in kind and in cash, the Tribunal on Myanmar is wholly independent in its proceedings and pronouncements free from any unwelcome editorial or political interferences by governments and INGOs alike.
The PPT Secretariat sent official invitations to both Myanmar Government to make a representation at the proceedings in London and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is chairing the Rakhine Commission at Suu Kyi’s request. Annan’s office replied that “Mr Annan appreciates the invitation. However, it is with great regret that he is unable to accept owning to his prior commitments in Africa at the time.” Myanmar Government did not respond to the invitation.
Dr Gianni Tognoni, Permanent People’s Tribunal, Rome, Italy at +39 (0) 3471824914
Dr Thomas McManus, International State Crimes Initiative, Queen Mary U. of London +44 (0) 795 806 99 27
Ms Kai Htang Lashi, (Kachin National Organization) at +44 (0)79 20 82 66 94
Tun Khin, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK at +44 (0) 78 88 71 48 66
Dr Malik Mujahid, Burma Task Force (Justice For All), Chicago, USA at 312-750-1178
Azril Mohd Amin, Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at +60123037110
Dr Maung Zarni (UK) at +44 (0)77 10 47 33 22
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________(c) 2017 Peoples Tribunal On Myanmar