Current Affairs 3 April 2019 Digest 4: UN appoints investigation head for Myanmar, SC quashes RBI circular on debt resolution
The United Nations has appointed the American prosecutor to lead the effort to collect and analyse evidence that Myanmar perpetrated crimes against humanity against Rohingyas.
Story 1- United Nations appoints investigation head for Myanmar
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on April 2, 2019 announced the appointment of Nicholas Koumjian of the United States as the head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
International criminal justice lawyer Nicholas Koumjian will serve as the first head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism (IIM) for Myanmar, which was established by the Human Rights Council on September 27, 2018 and welcomed by the UN General Assembly in December 2018. Koumjian brings to the position over 35 years of experience as a prosecutor, including almost 20 years of experience in the field of international criminal justice.
The United Nations has appointed the American prosecutor to lead the effort to collect and analyse evidence that Myanmar perpetrated crimes against humanity against Rohingyas- the ethnic minority community, over the last eight years.
About Nicholas Koumjian
• Nicholas Koumjian holds a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.
• He previously served as the trial attorney at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, deputy general prosecutor for serious crimes in Timor-Leste, international prosecutor in the war crimes section of the prosecutor's office for Bosnia and Herzegovina and as the principal trial attorney and senior appeals counsel in the special court for Sierra Leone.
• He has also worked as a prosecutor in the United States and has professional experience in the fields of international human rights law and transitional justice.
• Since November 2013, he had been serving as the international co-prosecutor for the extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia.
• 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.
• The alleged atrocities committed against the members of this minority community by the Myanmar military has been in the talks ever since over 700,000 Rohingyas including many women and children fled the state to seek refuge in neighbouring nations such as Bangladesh in August 2017.
• The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently conducting a preliminary examination of Myanmar's alleged mass deportation of Rohingyas.
• 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.
• Amnesty International on November 12, 2018 stripped Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, over her indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.
Story 2- Supreme Court strikes down RBI circular on debt resolution
The Supreme Court of India on April 2, 2019 struck down the Reserve Bank of India's February 2018 order on non-performing assets, as a result of which all cases referred to or admitted under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) due to the RBI order would now be cancelled.
The apex court struck down the controversial RBI circular mandating resolution of loans of Rs 2,000 crore and above even for a single day as ultra vires. The judgement was pronounced on a batch of petitions filed by various industries including power, fertiliser and sugar, challenging the February order.
• Following the Supreme Court order, all the companies either referred or admitted for the resolution process, whichever stage of the proceedings they are, would be treated as they were never referred for insolvency.
• The decision would benefit various sectors that are facing stress including power, sugar and shipping and those companies, which were facing difficulties in honouring their loan commitments.
• However, power companies, including 34 stressed projects with a capacity of about 40,000 MW would be the biggest beneficiaries as it now provides both banks and power generators with more time to resolve their debt.
• The decision comes after several power companies including Essar Power, GMR Energy, KSK Energy, and Rattan India Power as well as the Association of Power Producers (APP) and Independent Power Producers Association of India (IPPAI) had moved the top court in August, challenging the constitutional validity of the February 12 RBI circular.
• The power sector had contended that they were not willful defaulters and were facing sectoral and market issues, including non-availability of fuel and power purchase agreement (PPAs) and non payment by state utilities issues. They had stated that this hampered their ability to generate revenue and maintain their loan repayment schedule with banks.
The February 12, 2018 RBI circular had asked banks and other lenders to either execute a resolution plan for big stressed accounts or file insolvency petitions against them in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
As per the circular, 34 power companies were declared stressed by the standing committee on energy and some of them were referred for insolvency under the new bankruptcy code.
The RBI had allowed 180 days for debt resolution, failing which the asset would have to be taken to NCLT for initiation of insolvency against them. The deadline for the same had been fixed for August 31, 2018.