Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.’
MYANMAR MILITARY CONTINUES ASSAULT ON SAGAING, DISPLACING THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS
In recent days Myanmar’s (Burma) military has continued to launch airstrikes and raids throughout the resistance stronghold of Sagaing Region in northern Myanmar, perpetrating likely war crimes and crimes against humanity. Following three days of intense clashes with local resistance groups and airstrikes on civilian targets, between 22-23 January junta forces burned houses in Moetar village, Katha Township. More than 15,000 residents from 10 villages across Katha Township fled their homes as a result of the attacks. Over 7,000 civilians were also forced to flee on 23-24 January after military soldiers raided and torched villages along the border of Depayin and Ye-U townships in Sagaing Region.
Myanmar’s military – the Tatmadaw – has consistently perpetrated airstrikes and raids in the nearly two years since the coup in order to invoke terror, maintain control and quell dissent. In December 2022 junta soldiers conducted arson attacks on 30 villages in Depayin Township alone, destroying over 3,000 houses and five monasteries. According to the independent rights group Data for Myanmar, junta forces had burned an estimated 36,500 houses in Sagaing Region as of December. In a statement during December, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said, “The systematic gross human rights violations — amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity — being perpetrated daily on the people of Myanmar by an illegal military junta requires strong, coordinated action… and accountability for crimes the military has committed to date.”
As the airstrikes and raids against Sagaing continue, civil society has recently taken an important step to advance justice and accountability for the military’s past and current atrocities. On 24 January human rights group Fortify Rights and 16 people from Myanmar filed a criminal complaint in Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction against Myanmar’s military generals and others. The complaint accuses the Tatmadaw of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during its so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in 2017 and since the coup.
August 2022 marked the five-year anniversary of the clearance operations against the Rohingya, and 1 February will mark the second anniversary of the deadly coup. Liam Scott, Myanmar expert at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said, “Although there are a series of ongoing accountability initiatives and mechanisms, the military has enjoyed impunity for its atrocities for too long. This lack of accountability has emboldened the military to continue perpetrating abuses throughout Myanmar, such as the scorched earth campaign and airstrikes in Sagaing. It is time to ensure that the victims and survivors receive the justice they deserve.” German authorities should take up the complaint and open an investigation to help ensure that those responsible for these grave crimes are held to account.
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