UN appoints prosecutor to gather evidence of Myanmar atrocities

The United Nations announced on Wednesday the appointment of an American prosecutor to lead the effort to collect and analyse evidence that Myanmar perpetrated crimes against humanity against ethnic minorities over the last eight years. International criminal justice lawyer Nicholas Koumjian will serve as the first head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM) for Myanmar.

The IIM was established in September by the UN Human Rights Council to "collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Myanmar since 2011."

The creation of the IIM followed earlier calls by UN investigators for Myanmar's military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state, more than 800,000 of whom have been driven from the country since 2016.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently conducting a preliminary examination of Myanmar's alleged mass deportation of Rohingya. While the IIM operates independently of any court, it will make its findings available in any case brought against Myanmar military leaders, whether it be by a national court or the ICC.

"It is about gathering evidence and we hope that all countries concerned will cooperate actively with the Mechanism," a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said upon Koumjian's appointment.

Since 2013, Koumjian has served as prosecutor for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and he previously served in similar roles in tribunals for serious crimes in East Timor, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sierra Leone.    (dpa)