28 March 2021 - Human Rights
Two senior UN officials denounced on Sunday, “systematic” attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar and flagged that the international community has a responsibility to protect the people from atrocities.
Unsplash/Zinko Hein - People across ethnic and religious divides hold vigil in Yangon, Myanmar.
Following another day of widespread bloodshed by the Myanmar military, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, strongly condemned the Myanmar military’s widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other serious violations of human rights since it seized power on 1 February.
“The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police – who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children – must be halted immediately”, they said in a joint statement.
Yesterday witnessed the bloodiest day since the demonstrations against the coup began, with security forces killing at least 107 individuals – including seven children – according to multiple credible reports, with the number of deaths expected to rise as reports are confirmed.
Hundreds more were wounded and detained during these seemingly coordinated attacks in over 40 locations throughout the country, and thousands have been arbitrarily arrested – many subjected to enforced disappearance.
The UN officials called on the military to immediately stop killing the very people it has the duty to serve and protect.
The senior officials also called on the Security Council to build on its statement of 10 March condemning the violence, among other things, and for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and wider international community to promptly act to protect the people from atrocities.
Although the State has the primary responsibility to safeguard its population, in cases where it is manifestly failing, the international community “should take timely and collective action in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to protect civilian populations that are at risk of atrocity crimes”, they reminded.
Both UN officials also called for an end to systemic impunity in Myanmar.
“We must ensure accountability for past crimes and deter the most serious international crimes from being committed”, they stated.
“The failure to address the atrocity crimes the military has committed in the past, including against Rohingya and other minorities, has brought Myanmar to this terrible pass”.
Ms. Nderitu and Ms. Bachelet urged all parties – including defecting officials, police and military officers – to cooperate with international mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Human Rights Council’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, in fighting impunity in the country. “There is no way forward without accountability and fundamental reform of the military”, they stressed.
Minorities in crosshairs
This situation has also put at further risk the already vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya, which has long suffered horrific violence at the hands of the Myanmar military with impunity, as documented by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar established by the Human Rights Council.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact that the current situation may have on these populations and are closely monitoring developments. The rights of minority groups, including the Rohingya population must be fully respected”, the two UN officials stated.
They also noted the diversity of the protest movement and encouraged the newfound sense of unity across ethnic and religious divides.