Activists urge UN council to refer Myanmar to court

Human rights activists urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar’s military rulers to the International Criminal Court and urged neighbouring South-East Asian countries to support the opposition pro-democracy movement.

The leaders of two women’s rights organisations spoke to reporters ahead of a closed council meeting on Myanmar.

Members heard briefings by UN special envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer and Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, whose country chairs the 10-member Asean.

May Sabe Phyu, director of the Gender Equality Network, a coalition of organisations promoting women’s rights in Myanmar, accused Myanmar’s military of conducting “a terror campaign” and committing “heinous acts” that constituted crimes against humanity.

She said the Security Council should refer the junta’s actions to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

Myanmar’s military has long been accused of human rights violations, most notably during a brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign against Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine. International courts are considering whether that crackdown was genocide.

In 2021, the military ousted Myanmar’s elected civilian government, then moved to violently suppress public opposition to the takeover. Some experts now consider the situation in Myanmar to be a civil war in which the army has conducting major offensives against widespread armed resistance.

Asean adopted a five-step consensus on restoring peace in April 2021 to which Myanmar agreed but has not implemented, leading to Myanmar’s exclusion from some top-level Asean meetings since then.

The Security Council approved its first-ever resolution on Myanmar in December, demanding an immediate end to violence, urging its military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to restore democratic institutions. It also reiterated a call for dialogue and reconciliation and urged all sides “to respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”

The activists called for an arms embargo, for the UN special envoy to have public engagements with pro-democracy actors, and for accountability for crimes perpetrated by the military.

Phyu, who left Myanmar after the takeover and is now based in the United States, asked the Security Council to pressure Myanmar’s neighbours not to support the government but to publicly support democratic forces, including the National Unity Government, which has the support of the people of Myanmar.

And she criticised UN envoy Heyzer for meeting Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing but not meeting publicly with pro-democracy groups including the National Unity Government, which operates underground and calls itself the country’s legitimate government.

Naw Hser Hser, head of the Women’s League of Burma, said supporters of democracy feel forgotten by the international community. — AP

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