Families of victims of a brutal crackdown on anti-junta protests in Myanmar call on the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible for the death or dismemberment of their loved ones.
On February 1, the military overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government, claiming electoral fraud led to a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the November 2020 elections in the country. The junta has yet to provide evidence for its claims and has violently cracked down on nationwide protests calling for a return to civilian rule, killing nearly 900 people in the past five months.
In recent days, family members of those killed or maimed by junta soldiers have urged the ICC to hold military leaders to account for its actions, which they say fall within the jurisdiction of the court in accordance with its treaty. founder, the Rome Statute.
Under the statute, the ICC can accept cases related to four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The junta’s actions would most likely amount to crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances and torture as part of a large-scale attack on any civilian population.
Before the ICC investigates a case, the Office of the Prosecutor must determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC, whether there are genuine national proceedings and whether the opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and the victims.
After gathering evidence and identifying a suspect, the prosecution requests that the ICC judges issue an arrest warrant or a summons to appear against a suspect and â based on summons presented by the prosecution, the defense and legal representative of victims â judges decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Myanmar’s shadow government of national unity (NUG) is currently collecting evidence of crimes perpetrated by the junta that it plans to present to the ICC, although the country is not a signatory to the Rome Statute or a member of the court.
Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar service, a family member of Kyaw Min Latt, who was shot dead by the army on March 27 in Dawei municipality, Tanintharyi region, said the army should be prosecuted for the extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians. Video of the murder recorded on a nearby CCTV camera has since been widely shared on social media.
“I call for action … [the junta] would surely stop me if I tried to act on my own, âthe family member said. “They kill us as easily as if they were shooting a chicken or a bird in the road.”
Thirteen-year-old Htoo Myat Win was also killed on March 27 when a bullet fired by the army entered his home in Shwebo commune, Sagaing region.
“I am sure my son was shot from the roof of a neighboring building, but it is not yet possible to find out who the real killer was,” his father told RFA.
âThe military is fully responsible for these crimes. [My sonâs death] made no sense. If action is taken against them, I will be happy. It can be done. “
‘Above the law’
A family member of Lyan Phyo Aung, a civil engineering student at Magway University of Technology who had his right arm amputated and can no longer see with one eye after being injured in a military crackdown, has told RFA that if no action is taken against the junta, the country will continue to lose active members of its critical younger generation.
“It is imperative that action be taken against them for destroying the lives and property of citizens,” said the family member. “The later the action, the more losses people will suffer.”
Lyan Phyo Aung was arrested on March 27 during a demonstration against the coup in the central Magwe region. He was charged under Section 505 (a) for “incitement” and remains in detention.
The cases of Htoo Myat Win, Kyaw Min Latt and Lyan Phyo Aung are among some 200 cases that NUG hopes to bring to the attention of the ICC.
On June 25, Dr Sasa, Minister of International Relations at NUG, told reporters that the shadow government had received more than 400,000 complaints from all over Myanmar in the previous three months and said more than 200 cases responding to international standards would be selected and presented. at the ICC.
âWithout a functioning democracy, we cannot punish [military chief] Senator General Min Aung Hlaing, he is currently above the law. That’s why we will have to send it to the ICC, âhe said.
âWe need solid evidence to prosecute him at the ICC, so we are in the process of collecting that evidence and building the case. “
The ICC has heard 30 cases since its creation on July 1, 2002.
Deaths of civilians in detention
In addition to the killings and injuries among civilian demonstrators, at least 30 people have been tortured to death by authorities during interrogations in custody since the coup, according to RFA investigations, the last of which were two men from the country Bago and Mandalay regions.
On June 28, security forces from Bago County in Shwedaung arrested Aung Aung Lwin, 22, for defaming Senator General Min Aung Hlaing based on a video provided by an informant, according to a relative, who said. said three days later, police informed his family that he had died of “extreme stomach acidity” and that his body was in the local cemetery. When family members went to the cemetery to retrieve the body, authorities told them that it had already been cremated.
Soe San, 44, chairman of the NLD of Tair-zu village in Wundwin township in Mandalay, was arrested on July 29 while traveling with a friend to a local police station after learning that the authorities had searched for him a day earlier, according to a source close to his family.
A day later, relatives were informed of his death, but were not allowed to examine his body or take pictures when they went to view his body at a local cemetery.
Veteran lawyer Kyee Myint told RFA that whenever a person dies during questioning, the case should be treated as murder, with the victim’s family having the right to sue authorities in accordance with the law.
“They have the right to do it by law,” he said. âHowever, when it comes to litigation against the government, we only have a 10 percent chance. The remaining 90 percent depends on the whims of the police and the judge. This is the situation in Myanmar.
Last month, Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned the arbitrary detention and torture of dissidents and called for an investigation into the deaths in custody.
“The problem, of course, is that the Burmese army is trying to cover it up,” he said at the time.
Reported by the Myanmar service of RFA. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.