There can be no real accountability in Myanmar if women remain on the sidelines

Excerpt ofWomen's Media Center op-ed co-authored by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann.

Myanmar presents one of the world’s most difficult challenges to combating impunity, assisting victims, and reforming the institutions responsible for committing sexual violence and other crimes in conflicts. For years, women in Myanmar have called on the international community to intervene to put meaningful pressure on their human rights abusers. They are demanding an end to military control in the country and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious crimes against women.

Read the Full Op-Ed

Gender Inequality and Sexual Violence in Myanmar: Part of the Problem is Preventing a Cure

Excerpt ofMizzima op-ed by GJC Senior Burma Researcher Phyu Phyu Sann & GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

When it comes to protecting women from violence in Myanmar, what little difference a year makes. Last year during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Government pledged to submit a Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) Law to Parliament in early 2019 and give “priority and focus” to protecting women and children from violence.  As we approach another 16 Days of Activism, the PoVAW law, in the drafting stage since 2013, has not yet been submitted to Parliament, making clear that protecting women from violence is far from a priority or focus for the current Government.

Read the Full Op-Ed

Discrimination by Design: Key Points for the Universal Periodic Review of Iraq

In advance of the Human Rights Council’s forthcoming review of Iraq, it is critical that attention is paid to the need for fundamental reform of Iraq’s legal system in order to achieve justice for Daesh’s victims, and more broadly for the people of Iraq. As currently codified, Iraq’s criminal laws do not punish the most egregious aspects of Daesh’s sexual and gender-based violence. If prosecuted under these laws, basic features of Daesh’s crimes will go unpunished, such as rape with objects, forced marriage, and gender-motivated torture, as well as the international atrocity crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Global Justice Center’s full submission highlights a number of concerns over Iraq’s criminal laws as violations of Iraq’s obligations under the treaty bodies to which it is a party – including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Geneva Conventions.

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Ending Impunity for Gender-Based Violence in Genocide

Excerpt ofMs. Magazine op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Katherine Comly.

Ask any feminist how they think their government is doing at holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable and most would respond with an emphatic “poorly”—at best. Internationally, there are moves being made to tackle sexual violence, like awarding the Nobel Prize to Nadia Murad and passing the first Security Council Resolution on the issue. Still, they go nowhere near solving systemic problems.

There currently exists, however, a major opportunity to reform how the international justice system addresses sexual violence: the investigations into genocidal violence against the Rohingya in Burma. A gendered understanding of these crimes is essential and will fulfill the international community’s responsibility to recognize and punish all forms of genocidal violence.

Read the Full Op-Ed

Bringing a Gendered Lens to Genocide Prevention and Accountability

By Maryna Tkachenko

More than 70 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, mass atrocity crimes are still carried out in systematic and, equally important, gendered ways. The lack of emphasis on the gendered nature of coordinated crimes not only jeopardizes international security but also ignores the multi-layered reality of genocidal violence. The most recent genocides against the Yazidi and the Rohingya populations are clear instances of the international community neglecting to prioritize a gendered lens in preventing and punishing genocide.

On 22 May, the Global Justice Center and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP) held a panel on “Gender and Genocide: Engendering analysis for better prevention, accountability, and protection” to examine critical gaps within the framework of analysis for atrocity crimes. (Read GJC’s white paper Beyond Killing: Gender, Genocide, & Obligations Under International Law to learn more about the ways in which female experiences of genocide are too often removed from the analysis of genocidal violence.) 

There’s Nothing “Pro-Life” About Sweeping Abortion Bans

Excerpt of Ms. Magazine op-ed by GJC Communications Manager Liz Olson.  

Alabama’s sweeping abortion ban compares abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, as though the termination of a fetus is morally equivalent to the willful annihilation of a people. But it is abortion bans, not the women who seek them, that put lives at risk every day.

Legislation that criminalizes abortion access and provision does not prevent abortions—it just makes them more dangerous. The World Health Organization reports that about 25 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, primarily in regions with heavily restrictive abortion laws. Women who have unsafe abortions face serious and even fatal medical complications like heavy blood loss, infection and damage to internal organs. Unsafe abortions are even a leading cause of maternal mortality: 68,000 women die from them every year around the world.

The deadly impact of restrictive abortion policies is so well documented that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, once declared that total abortion bans “amount to a gender-based arbitrary killing, only suffered by women, as a result of discrimination enshrined in law.” 

Read the Full Op-Ed

Breaking Decades of Silence: Sexual Violence During the Khmer Rouge


By: Maryna Tkachenko

April 17, 2019 marked the 44th anniversary since the Communist Party of Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge) took over Cambodia. While in power, the party sought to create a Cambodian “master race,” resulting in years of repression, forced labor, torture, and massacres. While the recent trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) convicted two Khmer Rouge leaders of genocide, the issue of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the regime was not at the center of discussions.

After decades of silence, survivors of sexual violence are speaking out about their experiences. Working toward justice, accountability, and peace building becomes a challenge when survivors are at risk of being blamed and discriminated against. Hence, in an effort to eradicate the stigma and facilitate transitional justice processes, women in Cambodia are demonstrating the ways in which Cambodian society is impacted years after the Khmer Rouge regime ended.

Much More Than Language: How the US Denied Survivors of Rape in Conflict Lifesaving Care

Excerpt of Women Under Siege op-ed by GJC Deputy Legal Director Grant Shubin.  

On Wednesday, April 23, 2019, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2467 during the Council’s annual Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. .

After months of German-led negotiations, passage of the Resolution ultimately came down to sexual and reproductive health (SRH)—specifically, whether the U.S. would veto its inclusion in the final text.

The U.S. justified its position by claiming that SRH is a euphemism for abortion services. Not only is this not true—SRH includes, among other things, contraception, safe abortion services, HIV prevention, and prenatal healthcare—but even if it were, abortion services for survivors of sexual violence save lives.

Unsafe abortion causes the deaths of 47,000 people each year and leaves another 5 million with some form of permanent or temporary disability. They may suffer complications, including hemorrhage, infection, perforation of the uterus, and damage to the genital tract or internal organs. In fact, the consequences of denying abortion services have been found to be so severe that it can amount to torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment.

The international community cannot become accustomed or complacent to the Trump administration’s use of domestic politics to hold international rights hostage. Because it is more than just words that are given up last minute on the floor of the Security Council—it’s women’s lives.

Read the Full Op-Ed

"That's Illegal" Episode 10: #BringBackOurGirls: Five Years Later

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science, African & Women’s Studies at Brooklyn College, CUNY and one of the founders of the Bring Back Our Girls NYC campaign, to discuss the fifth anniversary of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the 276 Chibok girls and gender-based violence in Nigeria.  

Enjoy this episode? Follow us on iTunes and Soundcloud!

UN Security Council Adopts Resolution 2467

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 23, 2019

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2467 on Women, Peace and Security. Although the resolution purports to address the needs of victims of sexual violence in conflict, it contains no direct references to reproductive health—a key component of necessary and comprehensive medical care. This last-minute compromise was made to avoid a certain veto by the United States government.

"The Prosecutors" Screening at the United Nations

From April 25, 2019 18:15 until 20:00

At United Nations Headquarters, New York City, CR11

Speakers:

  • H.E. Ms. H. Elizabeth Thompson, Permanent Representative of Barbados to the United Nations
  • Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict
  • Karim Khan QC, Special Adviser and Head of UN Investigative Team to promote accountability for crimes committed by
  • Susana SáCouto, Director, War Crimes Research Office, American University Washington College of Law
  • Leslie Thomas, Director and Producer

Overview:

The Prosecutors is a documentary that tells the story of three dedicated lawyers who fight to ensure that sexual violence in conflict is not met with impunity. Filmed over five years on three continents, it takes viewers from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Colombia on the long journey towards justice.

The Global Justice Center is proud to co-sponsor this event alongside the Permanent Missions of the United Kingdom, Colombia, Canada, Chile and Costa Rica to the UN and Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice. Join us for a 30-minute screening of The Prosecutors, followed by a panel about prosecuting sexual violence in conflict. 

#BringBackOurGirls: Five Years Later


By: Maryna Tkachenko

On the night of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram—a jihadist terrorist group that aims to purify Islam in Nigeria—kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. Not long after, Boko Haram broadcasted images of the captives, wearing dark gowns. Although Boko Haram had previously engaged in armed attacks on the local people, this event captured the attention of the international community and sparked the global media campaign #BringBackOurGirls (BBOG).

Consequently, New York City’s Nigerian community responded: #BringBackOurGirlsNYC. Responding to the widespread outrage, the UN Security Council added Boko Haram to its sanctions list, and the United States sent troops to search for the girls. Public figures and celebrities also used their voices to condemn the abductions. While Pope Francis encouraged all to “join in prayer,” Malala Yousafzai and Angelina Jolie rallied on the behalf of the girls, and Michelle Obama posted an image of herself holding a white sheet of paper with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Holistic Care for Victims of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence


By: Maryna Tkachenko

Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) takes on various forms: rape, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization, forced abortion, sexual exploitation, trafficking, genital mutilation, and other heinous forms of sexual abuse. Although both women and men can become targets of sexual violence, women constitute the majority of the victims. It has been widely recognized that all survivors experience long-lasting mental and physical harm, but women and girls have unique, gender-sensitive needs. That is why survivor-centered care is one of the main requirements in providing victims with the tools to take control of their lives. Avoiding further harm and trauma, we must treat survivors with respect for their dignity, bodily autonomy, and the choices they make. 

What does holistic, victim-centered care constitute in practice? Drawing on extensive experience as a founder of Panzi Hospital in 1999 and a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work to end the use of rape as a weapon of war, Dr. Denis Mukwege offers us the Panzi Model, a holistic model of care that addresses the root causes of violence against women and girls and rebuilds survivors’ lives based on principles of human rights and gender equality. This model encompasses four main aspects: psychosocial support, medical care, access to legal justice, and reintegration into communities.

Stand Speak Rise Up: Know the System, Fix the System

From March 27, 2019 11:50 until 12:50

At European Convention Centre Luxembourg (ECCL), 4 Place de l'Europe, 1499 Luxembourg.

Stand Speak Rise Up! is hosted by Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg and her Foundation, in cooperation with the Women’s Forum and with the support of the Luxembourg Government. The conference is in partnership with the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation and We Are Not Weapons of War.

Slow progress on ending sexual violence in fragile environments is not a reflection of efforts to combat it. Indeed, sexual violence in fragile environments is steadily rising on global policy and humanitarian agendas. International organisations, governments, researchers, NGOs, foundations, and the private sector are devoting increasing resources to this issue. Yet, despite growing attention and the private sectors' increasing willingness to help address social issues, usually reserved for government and humanitarian organisations, responses to sexual violence in conflict remain lacking in coordination, scale and efficiency. That's because to fix the system, we need to understand the system.

  • What are the main obstacles to building a complete and accurate understanding of sexual violence in fragile environments globally?
  • How will survivor involvement and initiatives accelerate the changes needed to "fix the system"?
  • What examples of cross-sectoral and/or intra-sectoral collaboration offer best practices for knowledge sharing and impact?
  • What should be the role of the private sector in these efforts (e.g., funder, solution provider)?

Exchanges between:

  • Céline Bardet, Founder and President, We are NOT Weapons of War
  • Antonia Mulvey, Founder and Executive Director, Legal Action Worldwide
  • David Pereira, President, Amnesty International Luxembourg
  • Kim Thuy Seelinger, Director, Sexual Violence Programme, Human Rights Center, Berkeley Law School
  • Michel Wurth, Director, ArcelorMittal Luxembourg; Vice-President, Luxembourg Red Cross

Expert commentators:

  • Elise Boghossian, Founder, EliseCare
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center

Moderated by:

Alanna Vagianos, Women's Reporter, HuffPost

 

Open Letter to United Nations Secretary General on UN Operations in Myanmar

Reference: TIGO ASA 16/2019.001
Index: ASA 16/0113/2019

António Guterres
UN Secretary General

25 March 2019

Excellency,

We write to welcome your initiative to review United Nations operations in Myanmar, and to strongly urge you ensure that the review is open, transparent and that its findings and recommendations are made public.

Given the gravity of the abuses in Myanmar, the review offers an important opportunity to establish “whether everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises was done, identifying lessons learned and good practices, making recommendations as appropriate, including on accountability, and enabling more effective work in the future”, as recommended by the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.1 To this end, we urge you to ensure that:

  • The review is open and transparent, and its terms of reference, final report and findings are made public;
  • The review team has sufficient resources – human, financial and technical – to conduct its work. We encourage you to instruct all UN agencies to cooperate fully with the inquiry, including by providing access to relevant information and documents;
  • The review team consults with a wide range of stakeholders, both inside and outside of Myanmar. Any current and former UN staff, as well as other organizations including INGOs and local NGOs, who provide information to the inquiry must be able to do so without risk of reprisal.
  • The UN reaffirms its commitment to the Human Rights up Front initiative and takes immediate action to develop a comprehensive plan to more effectively mainstream human rights protection among all UN staff working on Myanmar, both in country and at headquarters. This should include detailed timelines for implementation, clearly identified indicators of successful implementation of the initiative, and the development of a plan for UN agencies to warn the UN Security Council to prevent and respond to serious human rights violations.

As you know, a similar inquiry was undertaken in 2012 on events in Sri Lanka. The public report that came out of that inquiry set an important precedent, and sent a strong message on the UN’s commitment to transparency and accountability within its own system. It also led to the Human Rights up Front initiative, which was an important step towards strengthening the UN’s human rights pillar and making the body more responsive during crises. We believe that the review on Myanmar offers an important opportunity to assess progress since 2012 and to look at the UN system as a whole to ensure that it is fit for purpose and able to respond quickly and effectively to prevent grave abuses. At a time when the protection and promotion of human rights around the world is under increasing threat, a strong, transparent, effective and accountable UN is essential. We would be happy to discuss these important issues with you further.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of our highest consideration,

Yours sincerely

Veronique Andrieux, Chief Executive Office, Action Against Hunger

Debbie Stothard, Coordinator, ALTSEAN-Burma

Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General, Amnesty International

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

John Samuel, Executive Director,  Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Anna Roberts, Executive Director,  Burma Campaign UK

Caroline Kende-Robb, Secretary-General, CARE International

Meg Gardinier,  Secretary General, ChildFund Alliance

Dimitris Christopoulos, President, FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights

Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Fortify Rights

Simon Adams, Executive Director, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Saman Zia-Zarifi, Secretary General, International Commission of Jurists

Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chairman, Justice for All/ Burma Task Force

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International

Adrianne Lapar, Program Director, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict

Sarah Costa, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission

1. Report of the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, A/HRC/39/CRP.2, 17 September 2018, para. 1706.

 

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CSW Side Event: Working Towards Greater Implementation of 1325 – Models of Best Practice States Parties and Civil Society

From March 11, 2019 10:30 until 12:00

At New York City Baha'i Center, 866 UN Plaza

Speakers:

  • Tia Bown, NAWO YWA
  • Grant Shubin, Deputy Legal Director Global Justice Center
  • WILPF activists from Cameroon and Niger
  • Rugya Muttawa, Founder Hope Organisation Libya

Overview:

UNSRC 1325 was passed and ratified in 2000, more than 18 years later and with numerous related resolutions since, there is still a way to go to ensure the full implementation of 1325.  Human Rights violations in conflict zones are well documented and much of the vision of 1325 remains unrealized.

Young women are often subject to double marginalization – as women, and as young people. In many societies and families, they are the last to eat, to speak, to receive an education. They do not have a voice, and only speak when spoken to. With little or no education or training, young women and girls are relegated to caretaking, cooking, childbearing, collecting firewood and fetching water – the unpaid labour, which is often not regarded as important by the society, and does not provide the women with financial means of their own. Conflict aggravates this situation. We will therefore have a voice of a young woman from the NAWO Young Women’s Alliance WPS network.

Civil society was active in the creation of 1325 and has remained committed and active since in its implementation despite lack of resources.  There are numerous examples from civil society from which we can learn to increase implementation elsewhere in addition to understanding better obstacles and challenges.  Representatives from civil society working at policy level and on the ground will share perspectives.

States Parties, have to varying degrees, supported and implemented 1325. Hearing from them their view of success and their learning in implementation, will take forward the discourse on this important issue.

The event will provide time for discussion to learn from the expertise in the room, especially in preparation for the 20th anniversary next year.

Letter to the CEDAW Committee: Supplementary information to Myanmar’s Report on an exceptional basis, scheduled for review by the CEDAW Committee at its 72nd Session

Dear Committee Members,

This letter supplements and responds to particularly concerning sections of the 6 February 2019 Exceptional Report submitted by Myanmar, which is scheduled for review by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“Committee”) on February 22, 2019 during its 72nd Session.

It is the view of the undersigned organizations that Myanmar’s submission raises serious doubts as to its willingness and ability to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes committed against the Rohingya, especially sexual and gender-based violence. Myanmar’s blanket denials that such crimes occurred and the answers presented in the report underscore not only that accountability will have to be achieved on the international level or before other domestic authorities, but also that there is a real risk of Myanmar aiming to discredit or jeopardize such accountability efforts. In addition to these overarching concerns, we seek to bring the Committee’s attention to two major areas of concern: (1) Myanmar’s refusal to acknowledge or accept responsibility for conflict, human rights abuses, and displacement; and (2) Myanmar’s inability and lack of will to meaningfully investigate and hold those responsible accountable.

Download the Letter

 

Accountability for conflict-related sexual violence as a central pillar for prevention - Arria Formula meeting of the UN Security Council

From Feb. 8, 2019 10:00 until 13:00

At United Nations Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber

The Permanent Missions of Germany, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, South Africa and the United Kingdom will co-host an Arria Formula meeting of the UN Security Council on the preventive impact of criminal accountability for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence on Friday, 8 February 2019, at 10:00 am in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. The meeting will be chaired by Ms. Katarina Barley, Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany.

"Sexual violence, when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilians or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations, can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security." (Extract from Security Council Resolution 1820).

Members of the UN Security Council and UN Member States explore how each can more effectively integrate criminal accountability for sexual violence in conflict into the prevention agenda, including into conflict resolution, transitional justice and peacebuilding.

Briefers:

  • Tonderai Chikuhwa, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict
  • Toussaint Muntazini, Prosecutor of the Special Crimes Court in the Central African Republic
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center

Chair:

  • Katarina Barley, Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany

Download the Concept Note

 

Joint NGO Letter to the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

          Joint NGO Letter to the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary‑General on Sexual Violence in Conflict
in response to
the Framework of Cooperation between the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations on addressing conflict-related sexual violence against the displaced Rohingya population from Myanmar hosted in Bangladesh
and
the Joint Communiqué of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the United Nations on prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.

 

25 January 2019

Dear Special Representative to Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Patten,

We, the undersigned organizations, thank you for your commitment and efforts to advance accountability for conflict-related sexual violence (“CRSV”) and to protect survivors of such crimes, including in places where impunity has long been the rule, such as Myanmar. We share this commitment with you.

Building on this shared commitment, we are writing to express our concerns and to suggest recommendations with regard to your Office’s engagement with the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, in particular the “Framework of Cooperation on addressing conflict-related sexual violence against the displaced Rohingya population from Myanmar hosted in Bangladesh between the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations” and the “Joint Communiqué of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the United Nations on prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence”.

We appreciate your leadership on the need for accountability for CRSV in Myanmar to date as outlined in your address to the United Nations Security Council in December 2017.

“The widespread threat and use of sexual violence served as a driver and push factor for forced displacement on a massive scale, and as a calculated tool of terror seemingly aimed at the extermination and removal of the Rohingya as a group. […] I urge the Council to do everything in its power to seek a swift end to the atrocities, ensure that the alleged perpetrators of sexual and other violence [committed against Rohingya women and girls] are brought to justice and create conditions for a safe and dignified future for the survivors. History will judge our action or inaction.” (S/PV.8133, pp 4-5.)

With regard to the Framework of Cooperation with Bangladesh, our core concern lies with the commitment focused on national level documentation efforts of CRSV. We are apprehensive about encouraging further documentation in light of the current documentation of Rohingya experiences. We fear the Framework will initiate further documentation undertaken by actors lacking the necessary expertise, resources and coordination.

The uncoordinated documentation of CRSV in Bangladesh by multiple actors poses a security and health risk for the interviewed survivors of such crimes due to the absence of support services treating their medical and psychological needs and of effective physical protection from documentation actors. In addition, the result of uncoordinated documentation by multiple actors may potentially undermine upcoming investigation and accountability efforts by international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), which are likely to have a policy to not interview survivors who have already been approached in the past in order to avoid security risks and re-traumatization of survivors, as well as potential unreliability of testimony.

Instead of encouraging further documentation around the National Human Rights Commission, we recommend that the implementation of the Framework focuses first and foremost on the implementation of adequate medical and psycho-social support structures for (CRSV) survivors within Bangladesh. Once such structures are in place, capacity and expertise of national level documentation actors should be strengthened, including training in documenting CRSV as well as training of translators or ensuring that translators of the required language and dialect are readily available.  These are prerequisites before further documentation – in a coordinated manner – could take place.

Regarding the Joint Communiqué with the Government of Myanmar, as the report of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar (“FFM”) clearly outlines, Myanmar has a long and deeply entrenched history of impunity for grave crimes, including CRSV.[1] This impunity has been compounded by the absolute failure of Myanmar’s authorities – civilian and military alike – to demonstrate any willingness to investigate or hold perpetrators accountable. While eight ad-hoc commissions and boards have been set up by the Myanmar authorities since 2012 with regard to the situation in Rakhine State, the FFM determined that none meet the standards of an “impartial, independent, effective and thorough human rights investigation.” The newly constituted Independent Commission of Inquiry for Rakhine has done nothing to allay these concerns. One of the four Commissioners is a Myanmar Government official who has previously stated that Myanmar had “no intention of ethnic cleansing” and the chairperson has stated that the Commission will not “blame or finger-point”, which is at odds with the pursuit of accountability.

Furthermore, the Government’s emphasis on the work of this Commission of Inquiry, coupled with its refusal to cooperate with and allow access to impartial, international experts and bodies, including the FFM, the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar and the ICC, raise serious concerns about the Government’s commitment to accountability. These concerns also fall in line with the policy that led to the dismissal of the appeal on behalf of the two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the most recent attempt by the Myanmar authorities to hide the atrocities committed in Rakhine State. Against this backdrop, we see a real risk of instrumentalization of your mandate by the Myanmar Government.

We were heartened to see in your statement accompanying the Joint Communiqué that “the true test of commitment will be the concrete actions taken to ensure accountability for sexual violence crimes.” We could not agree more. Accordingly, we provide the following recommendations with respect to the work of your Office in Myanmar, as well as for your forthcoming mission to the region.

  1. We urge you to review the Framework Agreement as to remove the emphasis on national documentation and discourage further documentation until support services for survivors are in place. Once this requirement is met, the capacities and expertise of national documentation actors, including translators, need to be strengthened.
  2. We ask for clear benchmarks to be set for the Myanmar Government to advance the implementation of the FFM’s key recommendations on accountability (FFM report, para 1682), in particular to:
    • Pursue all credible allegations of human rights violations and crimes under international law through prompt, effective and thorough, independent and impartial investigations including a specific focus on the investigation, prosecution and punishment for acts of sexual and gender-based violence;
    • Ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC and accept its jurisdiction as of 1 July 2002;
    • Transfer all military and other security personnel alleged to have committed crimes under international law to civilian courts;
    • Reform the domestic judicial sector by strengthening the independence of judges as well as the qualifications and expertise of judges, prosecutors and lawyers;
    • Incorporate domestic law sanctions for serious crimes under international law, serious human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law.
    • Ensure that the proposed Protection (and Prevention) of Violence against Women Law meets international standards and brings sexual violence committed by military actors under the ambit of the law, and is tied to broader necessary legal reforms, including of the Penal Code and the Constitution.
  1. We invite the United Nations to undertake a coordinated and consistent survivor-centric approach towards the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar with regard to CRSV, through continuous engagement with the survivor community with the aim of understanding and identifying their needs, including medical as well as psycho-social support, and demands.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your team to discuss our concerns ahead of the upcoming mission to the region, as well as debrief afterwards. We would further welcome the opportunity to exchange with your Office on ways to highlight the importance of credible, survivor‑centric accountability efforts for CRSV and other grave crimes in the region, and possible action points for the United Nations Security Council moving forward.

Signed by

 

ALTSEAN-Burma
Amnesty International
Center for Intersectional Justice
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Justice Center
Global Network of Women Peacebuilders
Human Rights Watch
Impact
International Organization for Victim Assistance
Naripokkho
Odhikar
Rohingya Women Welfare Society
Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice

 

[1] See FFM report, A/HRC/39/CRP.2, paras 1577-1593 for structural impunity, paras 1371-1374 and 1594-1600 for the use of sexual violence in Myanmar.

Download the Letter

Nadia Murad, Dr. Denis Mukwege, and the Promise of Justice

By: Sofia Garcia

In 2008, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. It statesthat sexual violence in war and armed conflict constitutes a war crime as well as a threat to international peace and security. Ten years later, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege for their continued efforts to end sexual violence in conflict and focus international attention on these war crimes. Recent international crises such as the Yazidi genocide by Daesh and the Rohingya genocide in Burma have again reminded us of the ongoing fight against sexual violence in conflict and rape as a weapon of war. Ms. Murad and Dr. Mukwege are leaders of the international efforts to bring justice to victims of these heinous crimes and build a world in which women and girls are protected from the sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. Their courageous work has fostered discourse around wartime rape and sexual violence, bringing victims one step closer to justice and perpetrators one step closer to accountability.

Nadia Murad became an advocate for the Yazidis after she escaped enslavement by Daesh fighters in 2014. She is a part of the Yazidi ethno-religious minority targeted by Daesh during the genocide. That year, she was one of more than 6,700 Yazidi women taken prisoner by Daesh in Iraq. She is the founder of Nadia's Initiative, an organization dedicated to "helping women and children victimized by genocide, mass atrocities, and human trafficking to heal and rebuild their lives and communities." Ms. Murad’s tireless advocacy to ensure that sexual violence is eradicated from conflict situations and that rape can no longer be used as a weapon of war is a promise to all survivors that they are no longer invisible in the eyes of the international community. For far too long, rape and sexual violence were not regarded as weapons of war. Today, activists like Ms. Murad are working to ensure that victims of sexual and gender based violence receive proper forms of justice and reparations.