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Shadow of Death: Use of civilians as human shields by the State Administration Council (SAC) in Southeast Burma since the coup

July 27th, 2023  •  Author:   Karen Human Rights Group  •  2 minute read
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Since the 2021 coup staged in Burma (Myanmar), the armed conflict in locally-defined Karen State has escalated again, worsening the human rights and security situation throughout the region due to increasing human rights violations committed by the State Administration Council (SAC) including air strikes, shelling, destruction of civilian properties, displacement, killings, arbitrary arrest and torture. The use of civilians as human shields is also regularly reported to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) across all seven districts in Karen State. Since February 2021, KHRG has received 22 reports containing evidence of SAC soldiers using human shields, involving more than 564 villagers. In reality, the numbers go much higher than this, especially considering that many cases of forced portering and the use of villagers as navigators also amounts to human shield usage to avoid attacks from ethnic armed forces.

This briefing paper presents incidents committed by the SAC where villagers were used as human shields in Southeast Burma, and shows how such heinous abuses deeply impact the victims and the community. The first section provides a brief overview of the situation in Southeast Burma since the 2021 coup. Secondly, the paper displays evidence of the risks that villagers face when taken as human shields, including death, as well as the mistreatment they suffer while detained. Thirdly, an analysis of these crimes committed by the SAC is conducted, highlighting the legal implications of such practices. Finally, some recommendations for stakeholders are presented.

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