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New Hearings Announced in Genocide Case Against Myanmar at World Court

NEW YORK — Reports surfaced today that the International Court of Justice will hold hearings on February 21 in The Gambia’s case against Myanmar for the 2017 genocide of the Rohingya. The hearings — the first since last year’s military coup — will consider Myanmar’s “preliminary objections” to the case.

Preliminary objections are typically filed to raise procedural issues before the court considers the merits of the case. Objections filed by Myanmar likely include challenges to The Gambia’s standing to file the case and to the existence of a dispute with The Gambia. More information on preliminary objections and the military coup’s effect on the case can be found here.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“It is important that a critical vehicle to secure accountability for the Rohingya genocide is moving forward, especially after the perpeptrators of this grave crime took power in a coup. The present crisis in Myanmar was born of impunity and it will take accountability at this court and elsewhere to move Myanmar back on the path to democracy.

“Myanmar’s preliminary objections are little more than delay tactics. In its hearings and order on provisional measures, the court already considered and rejected many of these arguments. The fact is Myanmar violated the Genocide Convention and Myanmar will do everything it can to avoid facing justice. And with the news that the military junta will defend in this case, the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide will now be the one’s physically present in court to answer for their atrocities.

“The military has not only yet to be held accountable for its grievous crimes, but illegally seized power over their country. In its repression of the pro-democracy movement, the military is continuing the human rights abuses that a generation of impunity has afforded. It’s past time for these atrocities to be met with consequences and this case is a vital tool to secure such justice.”

Civil society welcomes the UN General Assembly’s decision to reject the Myanmar military junta, urges the UN to cease all forms of cooperation that lend them legitimacy

Today, the UN General Assembly adopted the recommendations made by the Credentials Committee of the UN to defer the decision on who will represent Myanmar at the UN. The decision constitutes a clear rejection of the illegal Myanmar military junta’s application for credentials to the UN, leaving U Kyaw Moe Tun, the current Permanent Representative of Myanmar, to continue to represent the country at the world body.

The recommendation for deferral by the Credentials Committee comprised of nine UN Member States including the United States, China and Russia, is a huge blow to the murderous junta that have killed at least 1,303 people since the coup, including around 100 children, and arbitrarily arrested 10,681 people.  

Khin Ohmar, founder and Chairperson of Progressive Voice: “We welcome this decision by the UN General Assembly to reject the terrorist military junta and call on all UN agencies, funds and programs to cease all forms of cooperation that lend the junta any legitimacy. UN agencies must end its complicity in emboldening the junta by inviting them to meetings, conferences and other platforms that offers them the opportunity to create a façade of legitimacy.

International bodies, including the Human Rights Council, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization, must now accept nominations made by U Kyaw Moe Tun and recognize the authority of Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the UN.”

Charles Santiago, chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), and a Malaysian Member of Parliament: “The UN General Assembly’s decision sends a strong message to ASEAN and other regional and international institutions that the junta must not be recognized as the legitimate representatives of Myanmar. Any engagement by ASEAN or any of its members with the military junta undermines its credibility and is an affront to the courageous and continuing calls made by the people of Myanmar to reject the junta.

As we saw in a graphic video shared on social media over the weekend of the military deliberately running down peaceful demonstrators, despite the risks, the Myanmar people are literally putting their lives on the line every day to reject the junta, and calling for their voices to be heard.”

Grant Shubin, Legal Director of Global Justice Center: “Today’s result is a vote of confidence for the rule of law in Myanmar—but much more remains to be done. The junta has committed crimes against humanity with its widespread and systematic attacks on the people of Myanmar. In addition to denying the junta the legitimacy it craves, the international community must also take positive steps to end the Tatmadaw’s impunity and ensure justice and accountability for Myanmar.”

On 10 September, 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations called on the UN Member States to ensure that the current Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN, Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN. See the open letter to members of the UN General Assembly here: https://progressivevoicemyanmar.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/UNGA_Credentials_FINAL_ENG.pdf

Joint Statement on Supreme Court Arguments in Texas Abortion Case

The following is a joint statement about the Texas abortion law by the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International USA, and Human Rights Watch;

The United States Supreme Court is holding oral arguments on November 1, 2021 on procedural questions related to challenges brought against an extreme anti-abortion law in the state of Texas. Key protections for the human rights of pregnant people in the United States are at stake.

In a recent brief to the court ahead of upcoming arguments on the state of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch made clear that abortion bans, such as the 6-week restriction in Texas, are inconsistent with international human rights protections.

Upholding the Texas ban – as well as Mississippi’s 15-week ban, set to be heard by the court in December – would place the US at odds with a worldwide trend toward expansion of abortion access.

From Mexico to Ireland, countries around the world have taken major steps to broaden access to abortion in recent years. A significant majority of women of reproductive age – almost 60 percent – now live in countries where abortion is generally available.

In addition, these state abortion bans place the US in direct violation of its human rights obligations. The rights implicated in these cases – to life, nondiscrimination, freedom from torture, and privacy – come from binding treaties the US has ratified. Even the anti-abortion group C-Fam acknowledged in its brief to the court that all nine independent expert bodies monitoring state compliance with major international human rights treaties have recommended that abortion should be made more available in the US.

This case is just the latest effort in the US anti-abortion movement’s campaign to make abortion inaccessible across the country. Whether in Texas, Mississippi, or Florida, these attempts violate the human rights of pregnant people in the US. If the US is to respect human rights, it needs to expand, not restrict, access to abortion.

Statement on Tina Tchen Following Reports of Involvement with Effort to Discredit Survivor of Sexual Harassment by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

In May of 2019, the Global Justice Center awarded Tina Tchen with a “Feminist Changemaker” award for her work on women’s rights under the Obama administration. We are deeply saddened and disappointed at recent reports of Tchen’s involvement in efforts to discredit a survivor of sexual harassment by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We stand in solidarity with the survivors and victims who have called out not only the harms caused by Cuomo, but also the systems that keep abusers in power. We urge those in power to ensure that all survivors and victims of sexual harassment are heard without persecution.

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Disappointed with International Community

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar demanded greater accountability from ASEAN and the international community in their response to the recent military coup in the country. Since the coup, the armed and security forces have waged systemic gender-based violence and sexual violence against women, especially within the ethnic community. 

Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “Women Human Rights Defenders are being actively targeted by the military regime. There are chilling reports of female detainees being subjected to harrowing sexual assault, torture, physical and verbal abuse, and intimidation. The military’s use of rape as a weapon of war and sexual violence is a tool to demoralize and destroy ethnic communities. Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern. “

Several documented cases recently have shown large-scale violence against women including forcing them to exchange sex for removing their names from the warrant list, sexual assault in custody, and other forms of sexual and verbal abuse. There are also growing attacks on women human rights defenders for leading the resistance against Myanmar's military. At least 895 women have been detained so far and 56 confirmed cases of women and girls being killed, though the numbers could be higher.

“One-third of the Karenni population in Karenni State has been forced to flee their villages due to fighting between Burmese army and people resistance groups. Displaced women and children are at increased risk of being victims of human rights violations. We demand the international community to take immediate actions against the military, and provide access to humanitarian aid for the IDPs, in partnership with local ethnic service providers”, said a representative from Karenni National Women’s Organisation.

Moon Nay Li,  Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) shared, “The military coup is having the deepest impact on those who are already marginalized due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed  Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time, they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to health, legal, and social services.”

On 18 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Burma/Myanmar with no participation from women leaders or activists on the ground or women’s rights organizations from the country. The resolution also saw a split vote from ASEAN nations with at least four countries abstaining from voting.

“The failure of regional processes like ASEAN in holding the military regime accountable in Burma has been extremely disappointing. Women have historically led the resistance on the ground and hold the key to restoring peace and justice in the country. Absence of their voices and leadership in UN processes will only lead to the repetition of injustice and failure of the international community in fulfilling the purposes of the UN Charter ”, said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD).

“It is long overdue for the international community to move statements of concern and take real action. Burma’s military is notorious for grave human rights violations, most notably using sexual and gender-based violence as a tool of oppression, and its operations since the coup are no exception. The current crisis was born out of the military’s complete impunity for international crimes, and accountability for ongoing and past abuses must be part of the solution”, said Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center.

For more than seven decades, the military has waged war in several ethnic states of Burma/Myanmar. It is time to hold the military regime accountable by the international community and refer it to the International Criminal Court for these mass atrocities. Ensuring women’s voices, leadership and meaningful participation in all UN processes is the only way the international community can fulfil its obligation to the people of Burma/Myanmar.