"If genocide isn’t cause for decisive action, what is?” – Australian Government urged to act on Myanmar atrocities at UN

19 Sep, 2018

The Australian Government should immediately end its engagement with Myanmar’s military and impose sanctions on abusive military generals, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Australian Council for International Development said in a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council overnight.

The statement comes as a major, 400-page report by an expert Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar was presented to the Council. The Fact Finding Mission, which includes Australia’s former human rights commissioner Chris Sidoti, documented systematic rape, torture and murder by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya population, and recommends that Myanmar’s top military generals be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The HRLC and ACFID statement, which was delivered by HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy Daniel Webb, said:

“Our Government must immediately sever its ties with Myanmar’s military and impose targeted sanctions on abusive military generals. Because if genocide is not cause for decisive and principled action, then what on earth is?”

In response to the expert report the Australian Government told the Council it “condemns in the strongest terms the atrocities committed in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states” and indicated it will support a European Union led resolution to establish a dedicated body to consolidate evidence with a view to facilitating criminal proceedings.

While the HRLC and ACFID welcomed the Australian Government’s support for a new accountability mechanism they called on the Government to follow all of the Fact Finding Mission’s recommendations, not just some.

“The Fact Finding Mission recommends ending operational support for the Myanmar military, which it describes as having ‘contempt for human life’. But while the US, the UK, and the EU have all taken steps to sever ties with the Myanmar military, the Australian Government last year spent close to $400,000 on defence cooperation in the country,” Mr Webb told the Council.

“The Fact Finding Mission also calls for targeted sanctions against those responsible. But again, while the US, Canada, and the EU have all imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Myanmar military commanders, the Australian Government has refused to do so.”

“And while the Fact Finding Mission says that the victims of these atrocities deserve a future free of danger and insecurity, the Australian Government continues to imprison them indefinitely in remote, offshore, refugee detention camps.”

Marc Purcell, ACFID CEO, said that Australia had a clear responsibility to act.

“As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Australia has a responsibility to send a strong signal that it has a zero-tolerance approach for gross human rights violations in our region, including the abhorrent use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”

“The time has come for Defence Minister Christopher Pyne to end Australia’s defence cooperation with Myanmar’s military,” said Mr Purcell.

Read: The HRLC and ACFID’s statement here.


For further information, and interview requests, please contact Tim Watkin on 0401 721 064 or at [email protected].