Myanmar's Ongoing Human Rights Crisis: A Call to Action
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
In a stark reminder of the persistent human rights abuses in Myanmar, UN-appointed independent human rights investigators recently addressed the Human Rights Council, shedding light on the intensifying violence and horrific crimes perpetrated by the country's military (UN News, 11 September 2023; Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, 11 September 2023).
Since Myanmar's military seized power in a coup on February 1, 2021, the frequency and intensity of war crimes and crimes against humanity have escalated dramatically (UN News, 11 September 2023). Brazen aerial bombings, indiscriminate shelling, executions of captured combatants and civilians, intentional burnings of homes and villages, torture, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests have become tragically commonplace (UN News, 11 September 2023). More than a hundred thousand Rohingya were driven from their homes in 2016 and 2017, with over 700,000 forced to flee to Bangladesh (UN News, 11 September 2023). Shockingly, around 10,000 Rohingya, including men, women, children, and newborns, are believed to have been killed, and more than 300 villages were burned to the ground during this brutal campaign (UN News, 11 September 2023).
The prevailing violations within Myanmar starkly demonstrate a profound disregard for foundational human rights principles (UN News, 11 September 2023). These grievous transgressions inherently infringe upon the inherent rights encapsulated within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a pivotal international treaty, which supersedes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its legally binding capacity.
- Foremost among these breaches is the wanton violation of the right to life, liberty, and security of person, a cornerstone of the ICCPR articulated under Article 6. The indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial executions of captured combatants and civilians, and deliberate incineration of homes and villages not only contravene Article 6 but also manifest a blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life, which lies at the very core of international human rights law.
- Additionally, the pervasive destruction of Rohingya villages, the unrelenting assaults, and the systematic killings of civilians, compounded by the egregious perpetration of sexual crimes, collectively constitute a gross violation of Article 7 of the ICCPR. This article expressly prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and the atrocities witnessed in Myanmar flagrantly flout this fundamental prohibition.
- Furthermore, the widespread practice of arbitrary arrests and detentions, depriving individuals of their liberty without due process or legal recourse, constitutes a direct infringement of Article 9 of the ICCPR. The indiscriminate nature of these arrests and detentions underscores the erosion of the rule of law within Myanmar and serves as a stark reminder of the systemic injustices being perpetuated.
In light of these grave violations of the ICCPR, the international community is compelled to address this dire human rights situation urgently. Myanmar's obligations under this legally binding treaty demand accountability and redress for these transgressions, ultimately underscoring the imperative for swift international action. In the face of mounting evidence and appeals for justice, the United Nations has taken a firm stance on the crisis in Myanmar (UN News, 11 September 2023). UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called upon Myanmar's military rulers to heed the aspirations of its people, release all political prisoners, and restore democratic rule (UN News, 11 September 2023). The UN-appointed independent human rights investigators have tirelessly worked to collect evidence and prepare files for criminal prosecution, sharing this information with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and international criminal proceedings in Argentina (UN News, 11 September 2023). Despite the lack of physical access to Myanmar, these investigators have leveraged technology and the courage of individuals and organizations to uncover the truth and pursue justice (UN News, 11 September 2023).
Myanmar's ongoing human rights crisis demands urgent global attention and action (UN News, 11 September 2023). The international community must remain steadfast in its commitment to upholding human rights principles and ensuring accountability for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes (UN News, 11 September 2023). In accordance with international law and the UN's call to action, the world must work collectively to bring justice to the people of Myanmar, whose lives and dignity have been gravely violated.
UN News. (11 September 2023). War crimes intensifying: Myanmar human rights investigators. Available at https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/09/1140592.
Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. (11 September 2023). War crimes intensifying: Myanmar human rights investigators. Available at https://dppa.un.org/en/war-crimes-intensifying-myanmar-human-rights-investigators.