The Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP), a consortium of activists and civil society organizations in Myanmar (Burma) opposed to the February 2021 military coup, has accused the coup’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The group has recommended that the tribunal in The Hague open a criminal investigation into Min Aung Hlaing’s activities, claiming that he had directly ordered the violent suppression of protests against the coup. The United Nations described the Burmese military’s response to the protest movement as a “brute force terror campaign” in July.
The director of the MAP, Chris Gunness, argued that Min Aung Hlaing, as “the leader of the illegal coup,” was “criminally responsible for the security forces under his command committing mass atrociti[es].”
“The prospects of a conviction are good,” Gunness’s statement read, “and we believe that grounds for issuing an arrest warrant against Min Aung Hlaing are overwhelming.”
MAP claimed that it had gathered substantial evidence of state-sponsored violence, as well as evidence for the Burmese government’s use of torture on prisoners.
This evidence showed, MAP claimed, that the abuses were “widespread, systematic and the result of state-wide policies,” and therefore “clearly [met] the threshold of crimes against humanity.”
MAP’s findings have been confirmed by a United Nations investigation of the attacks on protestors. The UN’s “Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar,” or IIMM, concluded in a report that the attacks amounted “to crimes against humanity.”
More than thirteen hundred people have been killed so far during the protests, including at least seventy-five children. More than ten thousand have been arrested by the military authorities for participating in protests; some have been abused in captivity.
Although the protests were initially peaceful, they have become increasingly violent, and have merged in some areas with regional secessionist groups, most prominently including the Karen National Liberation Army in the southeast.
The leaders of Myanmar prior to the coup, President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, were each sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a Burmese court earlier in the week. Their sentences were shortened to two years through a partial pardon by Min Aung Hlaing, and their current whereabouts are unknown.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.