UN human rights expert calls for immediate end to military assaults on Rakhine villages, decries mounting death toll of children
GENEVA (22 September 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, today called for an immediate ceasefire in Rakhine State, decrying the death toll of innocent children that continues to rise.
“Serious questions have been raised about whether these children, and growing numbers of others, are being caught in the crossfire of war, or are being deliberately targeted,” he said. “These assaults need to stop and that the Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire must be heeded immediately.
“Two five-year-old children were killed and another was wounded by artillery fire in Myebon Township two weeks ago today,” said Andrews.
“Impunity and human rights cannot coexist,” Andrews said. Citing the videotaped confessions of two Tatmadaw defectors to massacres, rape and other against Rohingya Muslims in August 2017, he urged the government of Myanmar to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and the Independent Invesigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Andrews also referenced the International Court of Justice that is assessing Myanmar’s compliance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Andrews noted that Myanmar is facing a tremendous challenge in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic during an election season. He is calling on the international community to provide greater public health support.
The COVID-19 pandemic is “severely restricting opportunities for candidates and political parties to campaign”, said Mr. Andrews, while raising concerns that the government is imposing “vague and subjective criteria” to restrict the right to freedom of expression for political candidates.
“This is not only an infringement of fundamental rights, it is also dangerous,” said Andrews, noting that news sites serving ethnic minority areas have also been ordered shut. “Information can be critical to saving lives in a pandemic and information is the heartbeat of a free and fair election.”
Andrews also raised concerns about limitations on the right to vote in Myanmar’s upcoming elections on 8 November 2020. “The results of an election cannot accurately reflect the will of the people when the right to vote is denied because of race, ethnicity or religion,” he said. “I have seen no evidence that the government is willing or prepared to facilitate the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of voting-age Rohingya located in Rakhine State or in refugee camps in Bangladesh.”
Andrews presented satellite photographs of a Rohingya village – Khan Da Para, also known as Kan Kya — before and after it was attacked and destroyed in military-led “clearance operations” in August 2017. He showed a photo dated this year that showed a military installation where homes and villages once stood.
Citing Myanmar’s statement to the Human Rights Council last week that “commencement of repatriation is our priority”, Andrews asked: “But what does repatriation mean for those who once lived in Kan Kya? How can they be integrated into their place of origin when it has become a military base? Where is justice for those stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh while facilities are constructed on their homeland for the same military that stands accused at the International Court of Justice for committing genocide against them?”
Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, he has a Washington DC based consulting practice, Andrews Strategic Services. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network, has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide, and is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar
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