UN human rights expert Yanghee Lee has called upon the United Nations to step up its efforts to protect civilians in Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar, alleging ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the Myanmar military there.
She called for investigations into the crimes and actions to ensure that there is not another systemic failure like in 2017 when a military crackdown led to the killings of thousands of Rohingyas and an exodus of some 750,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh.
The International Court of Justice on January 23 ordered for provisional measures to prevent crimes of genocide against Rohingyas in Rakhine State and submit reports relating to those within four months.
The schedule for submission of the report for Myanmar is May 23.
Lee, who is concluding her tenure as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in her last report said the Myanmar military, Tatmadaw, is systematically violating the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights.
“Myanmar and its security forces must abide by the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures and its own Presidential directive to respect the Genocide Convention,” she said in a statement today.
ASSAULT CONTINUES ON CIVILIANS
“While the world is occupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Myanmar military continues to escalate its assault in Rakhine State, targeting the civilian population,” Yanghee Lee said, regretting that calls for a ceasefire, including by the Arakan Army, have gone unheeded.
Recalling the atrocities against the Rohingyas in 2017 by the Myanmar army, Lee said they are now targeting all civilians in conflict areas, with people from Rakhine, Rohingya, Mro, Daignet and Chin communities being killed in recent months.
“Their alleged crimes must be investigated in accordance with international standards, with perpetrators being held accountable.”
An armed conflict has raged in Rakhine and Chin states since December 2018 between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, but in recent weeks the Tatmadaw has ramped up attacks against civilians, displacing more than 157,000 people. Hundreds, including women and children, have been killed or wounded since the conflict started, the statement said.
The special rapporteur said recent Tatmadaw air and artillery strikes in civilian areas in Rakhine and neighbouring Chin State have killed and injured scores of adults and children, and the Tatmadaw has prevented some of the injured from accessing urgent medical care.
Men suspected of links to the Arakan Army have been detained for days and tortured. Schools, houses, a Buddhist temple and even an entire village of up to 700 homes have been burned or destroyed, Lee said.
“In one artillery attack on April 13, the Tatmadaw killed eight civilians, including at least two children, when it targeted Kyauk Seik village in Ponnagyun Township, with artillery from its nearby Battalion 550 base,” she said.
Witnesses say entire populations of villages have fled following the attacks.