Symposium on the Current Crisis in Myanmar: Legal Implications – An Introduction

Symposium on the Current Crisis in Myanmar: Legal Implications – An Introduction

It has now been over six months since the coup by the Myanmar military on 1 February 2021. There are multiple crises at the moment in Myanmar – mass atrocities being committed by the security forces on a daily basis, a devastating Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing armed conflicts in various parts of Myanmar, the continued marginalization of many minorities, and proceedings at international courts related to the Rohingya. These issues require further attention and analysis, and this is the right time to renew our focus.

The international law blog Opinio Juris and the Asia Justice Coalition have partnered to bring to you this Symposium, “Current Crisis in Myanmar: Legal Implications”. Previously, in August 2020, both partners hosted the symposium, “The Impact and Implications of International Law: Myanmar and the Rohingya”, in which various aspects of the legal developments related to the Rohingya were canvassed. This year, the intention is to broaden the discussion, to include the current events in Myanmar, given their inescapable impact on questions of justice and accountability, not just for the Rohingya but also the rest of the population of Myanmar. Members and partners of the Asia Justice Coalition have contributed their time and expertise in presenting their views and analysis for this symposium.

The UN General Assembly passed resolution 75/287 in June 2021, “Condemning in the strongest terms, in this context, the excessive and lethal violence by the Myanmar armed forces since 1 February 2021 […]”, and called upon the military to “immediately stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators”. The UN Human Rights Council has also addressed the human rights crisis in Myanmar, condemning the coup as a major step back in the democratic transition of Myanmar and condemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Tatmadaw.

On 23 September 2021, in her update at the 48th session of the Human Rights Council alongside the launch of the report “Situation of human rights in Myanmar – Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”, Michelle Bachelet stated:

Accountability remains crucial to any solution going forward. The human rights violations crimes being committed by the Tatmadaw today are built upon the impunity with which they perpetrated the shocking campaigns of violence against the Rohingya just four years ago – and also against many other ethnic minorities over decades.   

It is crucial that the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes, including potentially genocide, are duly held to account. In this regard, the expanded work of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, with its ongoing mandate over current events, has become even more important. Steps taken by the democratic opposition to engage the International Criminal Court and other bodies may also open new avenues for accountability. I also hope that many more military personnel will grasp that their own futures will not be served by following unlawful orders to commit international crimes.

The current context in Myanmar – the take-over by the military in February 2021 and the resulting repression, including the commission of what may amount to crimes against humanity – necessitates enhanced attention. There are significant implications of these developments on the legal landscape relating to accountability.

Our contributors address multiple issues, such as the legacies of impunity of the Tatmadaw, and the failures in holding perpetrators accountable. The details of potential crimes against humanity in relation to the Rome Statute are detailed, as well as why the atrocities in Myanmar must be considered crimes against humanity. We delve into questions of recognition of the National Unity Government – including an analysis of what the credentials process at the UNGA means, and the implications of this question in a submission before the International Criminal Court. Universal jurisdiction is placed in the context of wider accountability initiatives, with an in-depth assessment and argument by the petitioners in the case relating to the Rohingya before the courts in Argentina. Finally, we look at overall context and impact of the coup on the Rohingya, coming full circle to the question of justice and accountability.  

Here is a list of contributions, with links:

Shayna Bauchner, This Is What Impunity Looks Like – Myanmar’s Coup Built on Years of Failed Accountability,

Valerie Gabard & Kingsley Abbott, Post-coup Violations Should be Investigated as Crimes against Humanity,

Grant Shubin, Untangling Myanmar’s Credentials Battle and the Implications for International Justice,

Antonia Mulvey, New Communication to the International Criminal Court Calls for Justice for Victims and Survivors of Crimes Committed by Myanmar’s Military over Past Two Decades,

Jennifer Keene-McCann, Innovating Avenues for Justice and Accountability,

Tun Khin & Tomas Ojea Quintana, Inching Closer to a Historic Universal Jurisdiction Case in Argentina on the Rohingya Genocide,

Laetitia van den Assum, An Update on the Situation of Myanmar’s Rohingya.

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Asia-Pacific, Featured, General, International Criminal Law, International Human Rights Law, Public International Law, Symposia, Themes
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