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Press briefing notes on Gaza, Burundi and Myanmar

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 15 May 2018

(1) Gaza

We condemn the appalling, deadly violence in Gaza yesterday during which 58 Palestinians were killed and almost 1,360 demonstrators were injured with live ammunition by Israeli security forces. Of those injured, 155 are in critical condition. Six children and a health worker were among those who lost their lives, and 10 journalists suffered injuries from gunshot wounds. The already crumbling health care system in Gaza has been placed under incredible strain and those suffering life-threatening injuries face a nightmarish scenario in the absence of adequate hospital beds and medical services. We are still witnessing cases in which injured demonstrators are effectively prevented by Israel from exiting Gaza for treatment.

The rules on the use of force under international law have been repeated many times but appear to have been ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders, and at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.

A number of the demonstrators approached the fence, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces personnel, and flew kites laden with petrol soaked material. Some tried to damage the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Others burnt tires. Israeli forces responded with tear gas, plastic bullets and various types of live ammunition, some causing horrific wounds and lifelong disability. We stress, again, that lethal force may only be used as a measure of last – not first – resort, and only when there is an immediate threat to life or serious injury. An attempt to approach or crossing or damaging the fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition. This is also the case with regards to stones and molotov cocktails being thrown from a distance at well-protected security forces located behind defensive positions.

Again, we call for independent, transparent investigations in all cases of death and injury since 30 March. Since 30 March, 112 Palestinians, including 14 children, have lost their lives at the fence and thousands have been injured.

We are extremely worried about what may happen today – an emotional day on all sides – and in the weeks ahead. We urge maximum restraint. Enough is enough.

(Arabic version)

(2) Burundi

The High Commissioner is issuing a press release today highlighting the rising tension following a recent deadly attack on a village in Burundi that left 26 civilians dead. More broadly, he is very concerned about a possible upsurge in violence during the run-up to Thursday’s controversial constitutional referendum, and this horrific incident could unfortunately key straight into that potentially lethal dynamic.

To see full text of the press release in English, go here.

In French

(3) Myanmar

We are deeply concerned about the escalation in attacks by military forces and armed groups in Kachin and northern Shan States in Myanmar. Some 7,400 people have been internally displaced in Kachin State since early April, adding to the 100,000 already displaced. About 2,000 of these civilians spent about four weeks trapped in the jungle after fleeing the fighting in the conflict zone of Awng Lat, but this weekend, they were reportedly relocated to other towns in Kachin State. Many more remain trapped in areas of active fighting, with extremely difficult escape routes through mountains and forests, and in need of humanitarian support.

In Shan State, on Saturday, at least 14 civilians were reportedly killed and at least 20 others injured in attacks by armed groups, with the military mounting an offensive in response. There are also reports that the military, known as the Tatmadaw, has used heavy weaponry an aerial bombing in the region. More than 600 people have been displaced in Namtu Township in northern Shan.

We urge all sides to exercise restraint and to fully respect human rights and international humanitarian law, ensuring the protection of civilians at all times. The protracted conflict in Kachin and northern Shan States has already caused immense suffering, and we urge all sides to work to resolve the situation through a genuine, meaningful dialogue.

We call on the Government to ensure that those who have been displaced or remain in conflict-affected areas have access to humanitarian aid.

We are also concerned about the reported arrests Saturday of those demonstrators in Yangon who were peacefully calling for an end to hostilities in Kachin State. We call on the authorities in Myanmar to respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

ENDS

For media requests, please contact or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.

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