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Atrocity Alert No. 71 (13 September 2017): Myanmar (Burma) and Yemen

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Myanmar (Burma)

After nearly three weeks of “clearance operations” carried out by Myanmar’s security forces, an estimated 380,000 ethnic Rohingya civilians have fled Rakhine State to Bangladesh. During the operations - which have been conducted by the army and police, sometimes in collaboration with armed ethnic Rakhine civilians - there have been extensive reports of extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, plunder and the widespread burning of Rohingya villages. Approximately one third of the Rohingya population has fled Myanmar in less than twenty days.

On 11 September the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, called the systematic and widespread campaign by the Myanmar authorities “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmar authorities have subsequently announced that displaced civilians seeking to return from Bangladesh will be required to provide “proof of nationality” in order to reenter the country. However, the Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group, have been systematically marginalized by discriminatory laws in Myanmar, including denial of citizenship. It has also been widely reported that the security forces have planted landmines along the border with Bangladesh, directly threatening Rohingya who attempt to return.

The “clearance operations” began on 25 August following attacks on police posts and an army base by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) armed group. Some ARSA militants have also conducted attacks on civilians.

States should immediately suspend all formal collaboration and training programs with the Myanmar military and police who are conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State in direct violation of international law.

The UN Security Council, which met today on the situation in Rakhine, should take meaningful action to help end atrocities in Myanmar, including by formally calling upon State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to immediately stop the killings, and facilitate the safe voluntary return of displaced Rohingya civilians.

The Myanmar government should also permit the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Fact-Finding Mission to enter Rakhine State and expeditiously implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Yemen

On 5 September the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the situation in Yemen. The report documents the deaths of at least 5,144 civilians since March 2015, 3,233 of whom were killed by the international military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. In many cases it appears that civilians may have been targeted in airstrikes, or that operations were conducted “without regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack.”

The UN report also emphasized that the National Commission previously established to investigate human rights violations in Yemen is unable to deliver comprehensive, impartial reporting on the situation in the country.

On Monday, 11 September, during his opening address to the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein appealed for an international and independent inquiry into human rights violations in Yemen. This is the third time the High Commissioner has made a formal call for such an investigation.

It is expected that during the current session of the Human Rights Council states will put forward two draft resolutions on Yemen. One will likely support the efforts of Yemen's National Commission. The other will call for establishing an international, independent mechanism to investigate mass atrocities and other violations of international law in Yemen.

All states and international civil society organizations should support the High Commissioner’s call. Yemen is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with two-thirds of the civilian population dependent upon aid and seven million people facing the threat of famine.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is a direct result of the armed conflict and requires a political solution. The international community should hold all perpetrators of atrocities in Yemen accountable for their actions and cut off the supply of weapons to those violating international law.