Human Rights Expert Calls for Covid Ceasefire in Myanmar

Rohingya refugees, including infants and children, on a makeshift raft made of logs, bamboo poles and jerrycans are brought to shore through the mangroves after they crossed the Naf River, which demarcates the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Sunday 12 November 2017. Photo: UNICEF
Rohingya refugees, including infants and children, on a makeshift raft made of logs, bamboo poles and jerrycans are brought to shore through the mangroves after they crossed the Naf River, which demarcates the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Sunday 12 November 2017. Photo: UNICEF

Junta forces have engaged in at least 260 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, claiming the lives of at least 18 people.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar called on the United Nations Security Council and Member States to push for an emergency “Covid ceasefire” in light of an explosion of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Myanmar even as the State Administrative Council (SAC) escalates its attacks against health care workers.

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews stressed on July 27 the urgent need for Member States to use all the tools of the UN, including passage of resolutions demanding that the SAC immediately cease all attacks, especially against health care professionals who are desperately needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to devastate Myanmar.

“Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations,” Andrews warned. “The UN must act immediately to halt the military junta’s attacks, harassment, and detentions in the midst of a Covid-19 crisis.

Use of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter

The UN and the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have repeatedly failed to protect human rights of the citizens in different parts of the world. The casual statements and recommendations of the UN bureaucrats are being ignored by the rogue states which are supposed to follow them.

In such circumstances, the world leaders must consider the use of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter which specifies the UN Security Council’s powers to maintain peace. It allows the Council to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and to take military and non-military action to restore international peace and security. ~ Rakesh Raman

“Member States of the United Nations cannot afford to be complacent while the junta ruthlessly attacks medical personnel as Covid-19 spreads unchecked. They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and international organisations can help deliver vaccinations and related medical care,” Andrews said.

“Member States with influence on Myanmar’s State Administrative Council must follow passage of a UN resolution by urging an immediate cessation of attacks.”

The expert said that the junta has murdered at least 931 people and is holding at least 5,630 in arbitrary detention where they are in danger of being infected with the virus. Another 255 people have been sentenced for trumped up crimes, with 26 of them – two of whom are minors – sentenced to death. According to the UNHCR, there are 570,320 internally displaced persons currently living in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayin, Mon, and Bago states.

Junta forces have engaged in at least 260 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, claiming the lives of at least 18 people. Over 600 health care professionals are currently eluding outstanding arrest warrants and at least 67 are being held by junta forces.

In February, the UN Security Council passed a strong resolution demanding ceasefires in all States experiencing conflict. Resolution 2565 demanded “all parties to armed conflicts engage immediately in a durable, extensive, and sustained humanitarian pause to facilitate the equitable, safe and unhindered delivery and distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations in areas of armed conflict”. 

The Council further called for “full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access, without delay, for humanitarian personnel and medical personnel, their equipment, transport and supplies, in order to facilitate, inter alia, Covid-19 vaccinations, as appropriate”. It also demanded the “protection, safety, and security of such humanitarian and medical personnel…”

“This resolution represented a principled framework to address the outbreak of Covid-19 in States experiencing unrestrained violence. Given this escalating crisis, these demands must now be focused specifically on Myanmar. Doing so will save untold numbers of lives.”

Andrews concluded: “Of course the best outcome would be for the junta to stand down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the Covid-19 crisis. But in the immediate term, the junta’s relentless attacks and detentions must end. For this to be possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its Member States to step up with strong, principled action.”

Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the U.S. Congress from Maine, Mr. Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center.

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