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Shan, Karen Groups Back Genocide Charges Against Myanmar Military

By Nan Lwin 10 December 2019

YANGON — Seventeen Shan organizations released a joint statement on Monday showing their support for international legal cases against Myanmar’s military leaders and urging the international community to impose economic sanctions to end atrocities.

The statement said: “Shan communities strongly support the international legal cases being brought against Myanmar’s military leaders who have authorized atrocities against the country’s ethnic peoples for decades with impunity.”

The groups said they supported the genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ); the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s investigation into the crime of deportation against the Rohingya; and the case filed in Argentina for atrocities against the Rohingya.

“We urge concerted international pressure, including economic sanctions against Myanmar, in order for the military to stop its offensives and atrocities throughout the country, and begin a genuine political dialogue to end the civil war and bring long-awaited justice and equality for all the people in Myanmar,” the statement said.

Last month, the Muslim-majority West African state The Gambia filed the ICJ case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is leading a legal team contesting the ICJ lawsuit in The Hague stemming from the 2017 Rohingya crisis, arrived in the Netherlands late Sunday night, Myanmar time. Representatives from both countries will appear before the court from Tuesday to Dec. 12 for a series of public hearings.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late August 2017 after the security forces launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to a series of attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police outposts in the area. UN investigators said the operations had “genocidal intent”. Both the Myanmar government and military have denied the accusations.

The 17 groups said Shan civilians had suffered a similar pattern of systematic atrocities to the Rohingya for decades, particularly from 1996-98, when over 300,000 people in 1,400 villages in central and southern Shan State were forced to flee their homes, mostly to Thailand.

Hundreds of villagers were massacred, and many were tortured, including Buddhist monks, the statement said.

Referring to the 2002License to Rape: the Burmese military regime’s use of sexual violence in the ongoing war in Shan State” report, the group said Myanmar’s military used rape as a weapon of war. 

The report documented 625 sexual violence cases against women and girls by the military from 1996-2001.

A UN fact-finding mission report has documented military crimes against ethnic minorities in Shan State. 

“Until military impunity ends, systematic atrocities against ethnic peoples will continue,” the statement said. 

The groups said: “We are, therefore, heartened that the international spotlight is finally shining squarely on these horrors, and the wheels are turning to hold Myanmar’s military leaders to account.” 

The groups told international investors that “business as usual” meant subsidizing state-sanctioned atrocities and was untenable.

The statement was signed by 17 groups including the Shan Human Rights Foundation, Shan State Refugee Committee, Shan National Organization in Thailand, Overseas Shan Europe, Shan in Australia, Shan Refugee Organization in Malaysia and Yawnghwe Office in Exile. 

On Monday, Canada and the Netherlands urged all signatories to the UN Genocide Convention to support The Gambia in its efforts to bring the genocide case.

On the same day, liberal parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia issued a statement that welcomed the case against Myanmar at the UN’s highest court as an initial step towards justice and possible recognition of the crime of genocide committed against the Rohingya.

The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged Myanmar to take immediate action to guarantee human rights for the Rohingya, including citizenship, freedom of movement and access to education and health care. 

APHR also called on the international community to work to ensure the Rohingya living in Myanmar have their rights restored and that those in Bangladesh are able to return to their homes free from persecution or threats. 

Last week, 48 Karen organizations also welcomed the genocide case against Myanmar at the ICJ and the ICC investigation into deportation against the Rohingya. The joint statement said the Karen people have suffered for decades from the systematic human rights violations by the military. 

The groups also urged the international community to exert further pressure, including economic sanctions, to push for a complete halt to military offensives across the country and to start a genuine, inclusive dialogue.  

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, thousands rallied in major cities to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

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