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Tribunal convinced case against Myanmar on Rohingya issue

Published by Bernama on March 8, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: The panel of judges of the inaugural Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) on Myanmar is convinced that charges of serious crime on the Rohingya and Kachin group demand adjudication by the court, based on evidence presented at the opening session on March 6 and 7 in London.

“From all the accounts provided to us, it is clear the military is continuing and even escalating its repressive role despite the change to a supposedly democratic and civilian government of which so many people, including Kachin and Rohingya, had high expectations,” said the three-man panel.

Their closing remarks were posted on the PPT website.

The three judges were Daniel Feierstein, former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars; Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary of the United Nations and winner of Gandhi International Peace Award in 2003; and Helen Jarvis, former public affairs officer at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

They said the hearing was held due to the lack of response to the critical violation of the people’s rights in Myanmar, as well as requests made by 19 Rohingya organisations on Nov 24, last year.

“The Government of Myanmar was informed of this Opening Session and invited to participate, but regrettably did not appear. Nevertheless, this statement will be forwarded to them, together with the Preliminary Indictment, and we reaffirm that they have the possibility to present their case at the coming full session,” the judges said.

A full session will be convened within the next six months with a view to producing a reasoned judgment.

Over the two days, the panel of judges heard allegations submitted by both groups and received oral testimony from witnesses and experts, as well as video and written documentation dealing with allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Kachin and Rohingya group.

“The tribunal was exposed in considerable detail to the systematic violation of human rights such as killing, including slaughtering of babies and children, enforced disappearances, rape, forced labour, destruction of homes and denial of basic rights to food, livelihood, health services, education and citizenship,” they said.

In the remarks, the panel of judges expressed their deepest appreciation to the many victims for having the courage to come forward, and to the lawyers, researchers and activists who collected documentations to present as evidence to the PPT.

They also urged the United Nations, ASEAN and other international bodies to move beyond descriptive reports of the situation, and called on the media to keep focusing the spotlight on this humanitarian crisis and expose the truth.

“We also trust the commitment of the social movements worldwide to stand in solidarity and provide concrete assistance and action,” they said.

Meanwhile, members of Malaysia’s Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA), appearing before the PPT as expert witnesses were satisfied they were able to successfully share testimonies of 35 Rohingya who were interviewed in Malaysia.

Its chief executive, Azril Mohd Amin said CENTHRA had been able to successfully document testimonies of the Rohingya in a detailed and systematic way, and the PPT took cognisance, particularly of the specific human rights violations against the group.

“The PPT appreciated the work and contribution of CENTHRA’s team of lawyers. It has been a most rewarding experience to work with such committed representatives and supporters of the PPT and now, we look forward to the next session,” he told Bernama from London through the WhatsApp Messenger.

Estabilished in 1979, the PPT is an internationally-recognised public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities and has held 43 sessions so far.

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