Riot police stand guard on a road during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 8, 2021. File Photo by Xiao Long/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Social media giant Facebook has turned over "millions of items" to United Nations investigators that may support charges of war crimes and genocide against Myanmar's military, a top human rights offical said.
Nicholas Koumjian, head of the U.N. Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, said Monday that posts on Facebook were among the evidence his team has collected to build cases for international courts.
"Facebook has shared with the mechanism millions of items from networks of accounts that were taken down by the company because they misrepresented their identity," Koumjian said in remarks to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The IIMM began operations three years ago to collect and preserve evidence around the August 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic minority that forced more than 700,000 people to flee Myanmar.
The country is currently facing genocide charges in the International Court of Justice over the brutal attacks on the Rohingya, which rights groups have argued were inflamed by hate speech on Facebook.
"Our team has identified posts inciting fear and hatred of Rohingya that appeared on these military-controlled networks," Koumjian said.
He cited one post that contained "false reports of Rohingya arming en masse and threatening Myanmar's Buddhists, and a photo of a cow with its stomach slit and disemboweled -- an image offensive to Myanmar Buddhists."
Facebook parent company Meta released its first-ever human rights report in July, which concluded that "Meta had not done enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence" in Myanmar.
Amnesty International, however, called the Meta report a "cursory and selective analysis of the company's human rights impacts," and said it failed to address fundamental issues such as the way the social media platform's algorithms amplify harmful content.
In February 2021, Myanmar's military overthrew the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on widely debunked charges of voter fraud.
Under the junta's rule, the scope and scale of crimes against Myanmar's civilian population has intensified, Koumjian said Monday.
"Since the military coup in February last year, there is increasing evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer, persecution, imprisonment and targeting of the civilian population," he said.
The IIMM released a report last month that documented its findings of atrocities by the Myanmar military, including violence against women and children.
"We have gathered reports of children in Myanmar having been tortured and arbitrarily detained, sometimes to target their parents," Koumjian said. "There is also increasing evidence of sexual and gender-based crimes against both women and men."
In July, Myanmar executed four anti-coup activists after a closed-door trial by a military tribunal, sparking widespread condemnation over the country's first use of capital punishment in decades.
"Imposing a death sentence on the basis of proceedings that do not satisfy the basic requirements of a fair trial can amount to a crime against humanity," Koumjian said.
The IIMM has prepared 67 evidential and analytical packages to share with judicial authorities, including for proceedings at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, he said.