UN: Israel sold arms to known human rights abusers in Myanmar

Israel was among seven countries that sold arms to Myanmar’s military at a time when they should have known that “they would be used in the commission of serious crimes under international law."

August 8, 2019 04:36
4 minute read.
Pro-military demonstrators march to protest the U.S. sanctions imposed on Senior General Min Aung Hl

Pro-military demonstrators march to protest the U.S. sanctions imposed on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Yangon, Myanmar, August 3, 2019.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

UN: Israel sold arms to Myanmar
The UN charged that Israel was among seven countries that sold arms to Myanmar’s military at a time when it should have known that the weapons “would be used in the commission of serious crimes under international law.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswomen said in response that “since 2017 and immediately after receiving information about what was happening in the Rakhine region, the State of Israel has not granted licenses for new contracts to sell military equipment to Myanmar.”

On Tuesday, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry denounced the United Nations report which urged world leaders to cut ties with military-linked companies and impose an arms embargo over the Rohingya crisis, saying it was intended to harm the country.

In the report, a panel of three experts who conducted a fact-finding mission on Myanmar urged world leaders to impose targeted financial sanctions on companies linked to the military, and said that foreign firms doing business with them could be complicit in international crimes.

Myanmar said the UN had exceeded its mandate by setting up a fact-finding mission into the financial dealings of its military, known as the Tatmadaw. The same panel in 2018 determined the crackdown on Rohingya was carried out with “genocidal intent.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya, members of a persecuted Muslim minority, fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh amid a military-led crackdown in August 2017 that the UN and Western countries have said included mass killings and gang rapes. But already in 2016, the UN had accused the Tatmadaw of ethnic cleansing.

The investigators identified at least 59 foreign companies with commercial ties to the Myanmar military and 14 companies that have sold weapons and related equipment to security forces since 2016, including entities in Israel, India, North Korea, China, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine.

“The government of Myanmar categorically rejects the latest report and its conclusions,” the Myanmar Foreign Ministry said in a statement, calling the report an “action intended to harm the interests of Myanmar and its people.” It added, “We do not believe that economic sanctions will resolve the challenges that need to be overcome.”

The UN published Monday the results of its three-person fact-finding mission, including information on arms sales to the Tatmadaw, in advance of a debate next month on the issue during the UN Human Rights Council’s 42nd session in Geneva which begins on September 9.

The report concluded that “there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command” to determine “their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine state.”

In Monday’s report, the mission said that as of 2016, 14 foreign companies, including two from Israel, had provided arms and related equipment to the Tatmadaw when its actions against the Rohingya were already well publicized.

On the list is state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, which it said “delivered two attack frigates to the Tatmadaw navy” in April 2017. The company could not be reached for comment.

“In October 2016, an Israeli military and police equipment and training company, TAR Ideal Concepts, posted photographs on its website of its personnel training the Tatmadaw Special Operations Task Force,” the report stated.

TAR Ideal Concepts chief marketing officer Stacy Dotan said the UN had erred in including its company in its report. “We have never trained their [Myanmar’s] special forces, and we never sold them [Myanmar] weapons.” The company had “sold [the Tatmadaw] a video system” and “showed them how to use it.”

Dotan said that in accordance with Israeli restrictions, “we are not allowed to train forces in Myanmar. We do not do anything that is not in accordance to Israeli [regulations].”

She added that her company, which is 30 years old, is well known for its cyber technology, does humanitarian work and adheres to international and UN regulations.
The UN clarified that an Israeli Supreme Court order prohibited further arms sales to Myanmar.

“Military export licenses were revoked, and there has been no further defense cooperation,” according to the report.

Those companies and states should have known that their “arms transfers could have a direct and reasonably foreseeable impact on the human rights situation in Myanmar,” the report stated.

“The public record made it clear that the Tatmadaw used many of the types of arms and related equipment that these entities were providing, to commit gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

The fact-finding mission particularly chastised Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine because those three countries were signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits arms transfers in situations where they could be used to commit such violations. The mission called on the UN Security Council and member states to sanction companies connected to the Tatmadaw.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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