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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas H. Andrews (A/HRC/49/76) (Advance Unedited Version)

March 16th, 2022  •  Author:   United Nations Human Rights Council  •  6 minute read
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Human Rights Council
Forty-ninth session
28 February–1 April 2022
Agenda item 4 Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

Summary

Thirteen months after launching a coup against the government, an illegal military junta has waged a relentless war against the people of Myanmar and their fundamental rights. The results have been devastating. Junta forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians and displaced over 500,000. Half of the population has fallen into poverty. The World Health Organization is now projecting that there will be over 47,000 preventable deaths in Myanmar this year. Thirteen million people face food insecurity.

This report highlights some of the most serious human rights violations in Myanmar during the period September 2021 through February 2022. It documents the military’s violent attacks on civilian populations, including airstrikes, mortaring, arson, extrajudicial killings, and the use of forced labor and human shields. The report describes the junta’s campaign to arrest and imprison activists, journalists, peaceful protesters and other opponents. It documents the junta’s criminalization of fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. It also shares the experiences of those who have faced torture and other illtreatment during periods of detention. Many of these attacks constitute probable crimes against humanity and/or war crimes, and perpetrators must be brought to justice.

The report describes the efforts of the people of Myanmar to oppose the military junta and defend their nation. Led by large numbers of young people, including many young women, protest organizers have demonstrated great skill, tenacity and creativity in the mobilization of opposition despite the near constant threat of imprisonment or death. The Special Rapporteur is inspired by their conviction and tireless efforts.

To succeed, the people of Myanmar need a much stronger level of support from the international community. The report concludes with specific recommendations that he urges UN Security Council and Member States to take.

I. Introduction

  1. More than 13 months after overthrowing a democratically elected government, the Myanmar junta has intensified its war against the people of Myanmar. The military has escalated its indiscriminate attacks against civilians using jet fighters, attack helicopters and heavy artillery, and soldiers have burned entire villages to the ground. Civilians and combatants have been tortured, raped, executed and used as human shields.
  2. The scale of these atrocities is immense. According to conservative estimates, at least 1,600 civilians have been killed by the junta’s forces. Nearly 10,000 people are currently detained because of their opposition to military rule, and the junta has amended the legal code to further criminalize the exercise of fundamental rights including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. More than 500,000 people have been displaced since the coup bringing the current number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Myanmar to over 800,000. Tens of thousands who have sought safety in Bangladesh, India and Thailand have joined the approximately one million refugees from Myanmar in neighboring countries.
  3. Many of the junta’s human rights violations constitute probable crimes against humanity and war crimes. Those responsible must be held to account.
  4. This report highlights some of the most serious human rights concerns in Myanmar during the period September 2021 through February 2022. It documents the military’s violent attacks on civilian populations, including airstrikes, mortaring, arson, extrajudicial killings, and the use of forced labor and human shields. These attacks have created and exacerbated the dire humanitarian crisis that now grips the country, threatening the livelihoods, health and lives of millions. The report describes the junta’s campaign to arrest and imprison thousands of activists, journalists, peaceful protesters and other opponents. It also shares the experiences of those who have faced torture and other ill-treatment during periods of detention. The Special Rapporteur describes the particular dangers and human rights challenges faced by women and children and outlines the junta’s efforts to criminalize and otherwise suppress fundamental rights and freedoms. This report also describes the dire human rights situation for Rohingya populations in Rakhine State, including those who are confined to IDP camps.
  5. In December 2021, the Special Rapporteur traveled to Bangladesh, as part of his overall assessment of the human rights situation of the Rohingya people of Myanmar. In an annex to this report, the Special Rapporteur reflects on his trip, noting the role that the people and government of Bangladesh played in saving untold numbers of Rohingya as they fled the genocidal attacks of the Myanmar military in Rakhine State. He makes recommendations with respect to the protection of and support to Rohingya in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and on Bhasan Char island.
  6. The report follows the publication in February 2022 of the Special Rapporteur’s conference paper on arms sales to the Myanmar military (A/HRC/49/CRP.1). It underscores concerns raised in the paper, namely that several nations continue to sell or authorize the transfer of weapons of war to the Myanmar military, despite knowledge that the weapons are almost certain to be used in attacks against civilians. These transfers violate international law.
  7. Many people in Myanmar—including the victims of human rights abuses and their family members, some of whom are highlighted in this report—have told the Special Rapporteur that they are profoundly disappointed with the failure of the international community to act decisively to help prevent atrocities and hold perpetrators accountable. The Special Rapporteur reiterates his call to the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution imposing an arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions against the Myanmar military and referring the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. He elaborates steps that Member States should take in the absence of Security Council action. The Special Rapporteur notes the strong and swift action taken by Member States on behalf of the people of Ukraine and implores the international community to act similarly to protect the people of Myanmar. They too are under siege by a brutal and relentless military attack.
  8. The Special Rapporteur reiterates his deep admiration for the courage and resilience of the Myanmar people. He has been inspired by the bravery of survivors of human rights violations who have taken great personal risks to speak with him, by the resourcefulness of activists who have found new and creative ways to challenge military rule, and by the resilience of communities that have repeatedly rebounded from attacks over many months, years or decades. The Special Rapporteur is honored to share their stories, and their words, in this report. He is also grateful to the non-governmental and civil society organizations, human rights defenders, local human rights groups, Member States and United Nations programs and agencies that contributed to this report.

II. The junta’s violence and attacks on civilians


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