FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—November 5, 2015
[GENEVA & NEW YORK] – Tomorrow, an alleged war criminal accused of torture, murder, enslavement, pillage, rape, and forcible population transfer, is scheduled to present Myanmar’s human rights record at the United Nations.
In response, the Global Justice Center (GJC) and Justice Trust released an indictment charging Lieutenant General Ko Ko with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture, including rape and other sexual violence crimes.
The indictment expands on the 2014 findings by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic that clear evidence exists to arrest and prosecute Ko Ko for his command role in brutal army offences against the civilian population in the Karen ethnic area.
“Despite states’ duties to act when a country terrorizes and tortures its own citizens with impunity, Myanmar remains a protected ‘law free zone.’ Victims of heinous military crimes, including ethnic women and girls, are entitled to justice in their lifetimes,” said GJC President Janet Benshoof.
Local efforts to hold Ko Ko accountable have been stonewalled, and advocates for justice retaliated against. Undeterred, a coalition of more than 500 civil society groups in Myanmar, supported by international human rights organizations, are urging the international community to take steps to hold Ko Ko criminally accountable for past and ongoing crimes.
The indictment also documents his responsibility as Minister of Home Affairs for systemic human rights abuses committed by the police since 2012.
“Under Lieutenant General Ko Ko’s leadership, police forces have engaged in a widespread and consistent pattern of unlawful actions, including a phosphorus weapons attack against monks and villagers protesting the Letpadaung copper mine, and brutal beatings and arbitrary arrests of students,” said Justice Trust Executive Director Roger Normand. “Yet national level efforts to secure justice are blocked by the military and the judiciary at every turn.”
Despite the much-touted transition to a nominally civilian government in 2011, the impunity enjoyed by Ko Ko demonstrates the military’s continued iron grip on power. Despite national elections on November 8, this is not likely to change any time soon, as the military-designed 2008 Constitution enables the military to operate independent of any civilian authority.
Although, due to UN immunities, this indictment cannot be used to arrest Ko Ko in Geneva tomorrow, it can be used as the basis for future prosecution under the principle of universal jurisdiction, including in the International Criminal Court should the Security Council refer the situation of Myanmar to the ICC as it has with Sudan and Libya.
The Global Justice Center (GJC) works for peace, justice, and security by enforcing international laws that protect human rights and promote gender equality. Visit www.globaljusticecenter.net. Follow @GlobalJusticeC
Justice Trust partners with local lawyers and communities in Myanmar to bring human rights cases and campaigns, primarily at the domestic level. Visit www.justicetrust.net. Follow @JusticeTrustMM
The indictment of Lt.-Gen. Ko Ko is available here.
The domestic CSO petition is available here.
The international support statement is available here.
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