Ex-UN Rapporteur Testifies on Gross Human Rights Violations in Myanmar

Antonia Mulvey, a witness for the Petitioners, testifying virtually at the material judicial review hearing of Law No. 26 of 2000 on the Human Rights Court, Wednesday (2/22/2023). Photo by MKRI/Ifa.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 | 15:29 WIB

JAKARTA (MKRI) — The dictatorial government came to power in Myanmar in 1962. It was the beginning of various violations of human rights (HAM) against the people of Myanmar. In 1991, the UN’s general assembly passed for the first time a resolution that there had been gross human rights violations in Myanmar. In 1962-2021, two UN special rapporteurs noted there had been structured and systematic gross violations of human rights in Myanmar.

The statement was made by Antonia Mulvey, as interpreted by Yuliana Tansil, as a witness for the Petitioners at the material judicial review hearing of Law No. 26 of 2000 on Human Rights Court on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 in the plenary courtroom of the Constitutional Court (MK) before Chief Justice Anwar Usman and six other constitutional justices.

Mulvey explained that she had been a UN rapporteur on human rights issues in Myanmar in June 2017-October 2018, and had worked on refugee issues at the UN Office and had supported the UN report on the Rohingya and other Muslim minority ethnicities in Myanmar in June 2016.

“Since then, I have been the Executive Director of Legal Action Worldwide, which represent over 300 Rohingya people for various international legal procedures including at the International Court of Justice and the Gambia v. Myanmar in the international court,” she said.

Military Junta Operations

Mulvey also talked about military operations in Myanmar, where the military junta targeted civilians without distinguishing between those who were armed and those who were not, including children. There have been reports of shootings, bombings on civilians, where civilians were driven out of villages and executed. “[The military] also commit sexual violence and we saw UN reports from the 90s that said soldiers were given the right to rape and this has continued,” she explained.

She added that the government of Myanmar had total impunity for human rights violations, and this is an international crime. During the 2016 operation, many people left Myanmar for Bangladesh. It was at this time that the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution creating an independent UN fact-finding mission.

“In September 2017, I was parachuted in the first week of September to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border where I saw firsthand burning villages on the Myanmar side. It was then that we heard Aung San Suu Kyi said that clearance was over. The operation was still ongoing and I personally interviewed hundreds of Rohingya, especially women and children. Often soldiers would enter the village and then surrounded the village and shot at unarmed civilians. And then they entered the villages and burned people’s houses. Often there are families in these homes who do not manage to escape. They burned his face. While people were trying to save themselves and run away, they were fired. It doesn’t end there. The people in the villages were gathered, the women and men separated, then they were killed with their hands tied or they disappeared or were made to disappear,” she said.

Mulvey further said that since the coup in 2021, the situation in Myanmar had not improved. Gross human rights violations and violence began 30 years ago, which the UN condemned. There had been indiscriminate enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, mass killings, arrests, and detentions. All these happened to civilians, including children.

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The case No. 89/PUU-XX/2022 on the material judicial review of Law No. 26 of 2000 on Human Rights Court was filed by Marzuki DarusmanMuhammad Busyro Muqoddas, and the Alliance of the Independent Journalists (AJI) (Petitioners I-III). They argued that the phrase ‘by an Indonesian citizen’ in Article 5 of the Human Rights Court Law is unconstitutional. The article reads, “Human Rights Court also has the authority to hear and rule on cases of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by an Indonesian citizen outside the territorial boundaries of the Republic of Indonesia.”

At the preliminary hearing on Monday, September 26, 2022, the Petitioners argued that the phrase ‘by an Indonesian citizen’ in Article 5 of the Human Rights Court Law had eliminated the state’s responsibility to keep world peace, as the 1945 Constitution mandated, and eliminated the state’s responsibility in crimes in which another state is involved. 

Human Rights Violations in Myanmar

The current political situation in Myanmar is still in disarray after the military declared a state of emergency. Gross human rights violations have been committed and are still ongoing.

Under the limits of Article 5 of the Human Rights Court Law, victims of human rights violations in Myanmar would find it difficult to fight for their constitutional rights. Myanmar citizens cannot petition the International Criminal Court because Myanmar did not sign the Rome Statute. It would also be impossible for a country such as Myanmar with its military junta to establish a human rights court to try their officials who have committed human rights violations. The Petitioners believe there has been a legal vacuum in the case of gross human rights violations in Asia, so there needs to be a way to protect citizens, not only of Myanmar but also of ASEAN in general, so that they could have the right to personal defense.

Therefore, in the petitum, the Petitioners requested that the Court grant the entire petition and “declare the phrase ’by an Indonesian citizen’ in Article 5 of Law No. 26 of 2000 on Human Rights Court unconstitutional.”   

Writer        : Utami Argawati
Editor        : Nur R.
PR            : Tiara Agustina
Translator  : Yuniar Widiastuti (NL)

Translation uploaded on 2/24/2023 15:00 WIB

Disclaimer: The original version of the news is in Indonesian. In case of any differences between the English and the Indonesian versions, the Indonesian version will prevail.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 | 15:29 WIB 439