More than 10 months since Myanmar’s military seized power, the country’s human rights situation is deepening on an unprecedented scale, the UN rights office, OHCHR, has warned.
In a strongly worded statement on Friday, OHCHR said that it was “appalled by the alarming escalation of grave human rights abuses” in the country.
“In the last week alone, security forces have killed and burned to death 11 people, among them five minors, and rammed vehicles into protesters exercising their fundamental right to peaceful assembly”, said Spokesperson Rupert Colville at a news briefing in Geneva.
In addition, serious violations are “reported daily of the rights to life, liberty and security of person, the prohibition against torture, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of expression,” he added.
On Tuesday, a unit of the Myanmar army was reportedly ambushed by militia forces with a remote-controlled explosive device in Salingyi Township of Sagaing Region.
Security personnel responded by raiding the village of Done Taw and arresting six men and five minors, the youngest of whom was only 14 years old, according to local reports.
Villagers, who said they saw fire coming from the area, later found 11 charred male bodies.
“The villagers indicated that human corpses were contorted into shapes that appeared as though they were trying to shelter one another and escape from burning huts”, Mr. Colville said.
In a separate incident on Sunday, security forces in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon, rammed a vehicle into unarmed protesters and then fired on them with live ammunition, leaving several casualties.
“These attacks are heinous, completely unacceptable, and disregard common values of humanity”, said the UN official. “They are also far from isolated”.
In recent weeks, the UN Human Rights Office has received multiple reports of villages being burned, including protected structures, such as places of religious worship and residential buildings.
In Thantlang town in Chin State, credible sources reported that the military torched 19 civilian and religious buildings and 450 homes in 10 different incidents”, he said.
And a few weeks ago in Kayah State, villagers were reportedly burned alive when the place they were sheltering in was allegedly set ablaze by security forces.
Other instances of abuse
Since the coup, General Min Aung Hlaing’s forces have repeatedly failed to respect their obligations under international law to protect the country’s people, said Mr. Colville.
As a result, more than 1,300 individuals have lost their lives and another 10,600 have been detained.
“These latest grave violations demand a firm, unified and resolute international response that redoubles efforts to pursue accountability for the Myanmar military and the restoration of democracy in Myanmar”, he underscored.
Today “the courageous and resilient people of Myanmar” staged a universal silent protest to oppose the coup while also marking Human Rights Day, said the spokesperson.
Commemorated annually on 10 December, the Day honours the UN General Assembly’s 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation entitling a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms for everyone.
Zimbabwean peacekeeper selected as UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year 2021 Award
A Zimbabwean peacekeeper who recently completed her assignment with the UN Mission in South Sudan, will receive the 2021 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.
Military Observer Major Winnet Zharare, 39, served in Bentiu, South Sudan in 2021-2022, and will receive the award from the Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, 26 May 2022.
Created in 2016, the United Nations “Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award” recognizes the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of UN peace operations.
Secretary-General António Guterres commended Major Winnet for her award. “Major Zharare is a role model and a trailblazer. Through her service, she has demonstrated the invaluable role that women play in building trust, advocating for change and forging peace,” he said. “Her example shows how we will all gain with more women at the decision-making table and gender parity in peace operations,” Mr. Guterres added.
Major Zharare expressed her gratitude and pride in receiving the award which, she said, “motivated [her] to maintain [her] course towards gender equality.”
“My parents gave us equal opportunities with my brothers, so I believe that equal opportunities should be given to both men and women in all aspects of life,” she added.
Major Winnet Zharare deployed to UNMISS in November 2020. Throughout her 17-month-long service, she advocated for gender parity and women’s participation, within her own ranks, among local military counterparts, and in host communities.
As the Chief Military Information Officer in UNMISS’ Bentiu field office, she helped ensure that patrols included both women and men to improve protection efforts as well as build trust between host communities and the Mission. Her efforts also contributed to an increase in gender-aggregated data so that issues raised by local women and girls would gain appropriate attention.
Advocating for gender parity and womens’ participation in an environment where they are traditionally excluded from decision-making, she encouraged local civilian and military authorities and community representatives to involve both men and women in meetings with the UN. Her diligence and diplomatic skills quickly gained her the trust of local military commanders who would systematically reach out to her on issues pertaining to women’s protection and rights. During her patrols and numerous community engagement initiatives, Major Zharare also successfully encouraged men and women to work together in farming and in the construction of dikes around Bentiu town to alleviate food shortages and prevent further displacement.
Major Zharare is the first Zimbabwean peacekeeper to receive this prestigious award.
‘New dawn’ for Europe as War in Ukraine Strengthens EU and Support for Enlargement
The European Union surprised the world, and even itself, with the speed, scale and unity of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This “new” Europe is ready to project both soft and hard power on the world stage, European leaders told participants at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.
Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank, on the panel at the session, European Unity in a Disordered World?, said the Ukraine war has revealed how powerful Europe is collectively: “This is a new dawn for Europe.”
The war on Ukraine has also revealed weaknesses – including global supply chain vulnerabilities and over-reliance on Russian energy, she said, but Europe is addressing this and can begin to flex its muscles on the global stage. “Europe has untapped purchasing power, trading power, technology power, pension power and moral power.”
Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, reinforced the point. “This is Europe’s moment,” she said. “Europe can become the global project for peace.”
Mistakes of the past will be rectified, she said. “For way too long we did not seriously consider an energy union where we can rely on each other rather than on a country that can switch us off at any time.”
Referring to the EU’s support and defence of Ukraine, she was emphatic: “This is not the time to talk about face-saving for Russia or appeasement.”
Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, also on the panel, said: “If Ukraine falls to Russian aggression, Slovakia is next.” He added that we must continue to provide military support as well as step up humanitarian aid. “Above all we need to give Ukrainians hope.”
“Let’s not compromise – we must remain faithful to the values of the EU – freedom, rule of law, human dignity and equal rights.”
Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “The people of Europe have spoken. Enough is enough.” In response there is much stronger unanimity between member states and more support than ever to accept the accession of new members.
He continued: “We see the EU’s future in terms of the green economy and in terms of the digitalization but also in terms of enlargement.”
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, called on European member states to continue to raise their defence spending. “The NATO alliance members are inseparable, but Europe must play its part,” he said. “This will help transform Europe from a soft power to a hard power.”
Geopolitical Crises Forcing Leaders to Face up to Difficult New Realities
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda delivered a harsh rebuke to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, pledging “100% support” for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and calling for Moscow to pay reparations to Kyiv. “I simply cannot accept that Russia can violate international law with impunity.”
Russian aggression against Ukraine has revived unity within the West and highlighted for many Western nations the importance of democratic values. Finland and Sweden, notably, have set aside their longstanding policies of neutrality and applied to join NATO. “We are in a totally new situation and have to wake up to that,” said Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, noting that the collapse of the post-war European security architecture, as well as Russia’s increased appetite for risk, were among the major factors prompting Finland to apply for membership.
Haavisto said that in this “grey time” between the Nordic country’s application to join the alliance and its potential full accession, when it will enjoy mutual security protection under Article 5 of the NATO charter, NATO members have given Finland and Sweden assurances that they will guarantee security. Asked about Turkey’s stated objection to extension of membership to Finland and Sweden, he expressed confidence that Helsinki can address concerns.
Alarmed by an increasingly competitive geopolitical landscape marked by mounting frictions between the United States and China, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, emphasized the need for cooperation.
“If we learned anything from COVID, it is that we need to focus on cooperation and I think we need to continue to look towards avenues to foster that cooperation. Even when there is difference, when there’s competition, we need to find mechanisms to talk to each other.” He noted that Saudi Arabia, which values both its extensive trade relationship with China and its national security relationship with the US, is well-positioned to facilitate dialogue between the world’s leading powers.
Prince Faisal’s remarks were echoed by Pakistan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, who commented on the “binary choice” that countries with close ties to both China and the US are increasingly asked to make. “We are typically asked this question all the time: Who do you choose? It shows how far we have fallen as a global community,” she said. This is particularly difficult, she noted, for a country like Pakistan, which is already in fiscal crisis and now faces “the superimposition of a food security crisis”.
Gregory W. Meeks, Democratic Congressman from New York’s 6th District and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign, praised the bipartisan support for a recent Senate bill pledging $40 billion in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, as well as the broad international support that Ukraine has received.
He also focused on the potential food crisis, emphasizing the need to break the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports so Ukrainian grain can be delivered to the many countries that depend on it. “You got to open [the port of Odessa] up because that’s not been just limited to what’s happening in Ukraine; this threatens the entire world.”
Madrid is host to next month’s NATO summit and Spain’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares Bueno, praised the alliance’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. But he emphasized the threat that the looming food crisis, if left unresolved, could pose to Europe. Noting that the Sahel – the region of North Africa bordering the Sahara – is not only already deeply food-insecure, he warned that rising cereal prices could set off a potentially destabilizing northward migration. “Unity is our best defence.”
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