The struggle for justice: five years after the violence that led to the large-scale displacement of Myanmar’s Rohingya – Myanmar

Statement by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

Geneva, August 25, 2022 – Five years ago today, a wave of violence uprooted most of the Rohingya population from Rakhine State in Myanmar. Men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes, many of them losing their livelihoods and loved ones. About three-quarters of a million Rohingya, more than half of whom were children, crossed the border into Bangladesh where they are now.

While the scale of displacement in 2017 is particularly shocking, we must not forget the approximately 130,000 Rohingya who remain confined to makeshift camps in Myanmar following deadly violence a decade ago, and the tens of thousands of others who were displaced during the waves of in-between violence. Each of these events is a tragedy. But the biggest tragedy is that the Rohingya are still waiting to return home, and with each passing day their suffering grows.

Justice is a crucial step in enabling a safe and dignified return home. However, those responsible for crimes against the Rohingya have still not been held accountable. At the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, we are working to change that. We contribute to the fight for justice for all Rohingya who have lost their lives, family members and homes. We collect evidence of serious international crimes committed against them and others in Myanmar. We are accumulating the evidence to identify the individuals responsible for killing and displacing innocent civilians, as well as those who fueled and facilitated such horrors with their words, money or authority.

At the Mechanism, we know that the wheels of international justice can turn very slowly, which only increases the suffering of victims of crimes. We do everything we can to produce results as quickly as possible. But we cannot do it alone. The Mechanism does not have the power to compel the cooperation of any individual, entity or State. We can’t arrest anyone. We cannot organize our own trials. Rather, our mandate is to provide evidence to courts or tribunals that have jurisdiction over such crimes now or in the future, so that judges have what they need to determine the truth about what happened. To do this, we rely on the cooperation of individuals, companies, civil society organizations and governments to share information with us and facilitate our investigations.

Access to witnesses and victims is vital for us to piece together the details of crimes against the Rohingya and so many others in Myanmar. To those who have witnessed or been victims of such crimes, your experiences are essential parts of our evidence. We invite you to tell us what you saw. And to those who had access to inside information about the plans, actions and orders that led to the crimes – tell us what you know. We have processes in place to receive your information confidentially and securely. We already share relevant information – with the consent of those who provided it to us – with the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Five years later, the Rohingya face an unfolding tragedy. We must all work together to ensure that the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed against them are brought to justice and that Myanmar becomes a country where they can return home and live in safety and dignity.

The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM or Mechanism) was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 to collect and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and other human rights violations. committed in Myanmar since 2011. It aims to facilitate justice and accountability by preserving and organizing this evidence and preparing records for use in future prosecutions of those responsible in national, regional and international courts.

*For more information, visit or contact *[email protected]

Elna M. Lemons