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Myanmar: UN expert says civilians must be protected as Kachin violence mounts

GENEVA (1 May 2018) – A UN human rights expert has expressed grave concerns over a sharp escalation in hostilities in Myanmar’s Kachin State, which has reportedly killed at least 10 civilians, left several wounded and forced thousands to flee their homes in the north of the country.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said she had received reports that the military had carried out aerial bombings, and used heavy weapons and artillery fire against civilian areas near the Chinese border.

“What we are seeing in Kachin State over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” Lee said. “Innocent civilians are being killed and injured, and hundreds of families are now fleeing for their lives. 

“Civilians must never be subjected to violence during the course of conflict. All parties must take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security,” she added.

In March, Lee told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that as the world’s attention was focused on the crisis in Rakhine State, violence was escalating in other areas such as Kachin.

She urged all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and said it was incumbent upon all forces to observe the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

According to UN reports, more than 5,000 civilians have been displaced from villages near the border with China in the last three weeks. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities are among those displaced.

Lee said she had received reports that a food convoy organised by the Myanmar Red Cross was prevented from entering the village of Man Wai on 23 April. More than 100 civilians have been trapped in the village for three weeks with no or very limited access to food, medicine and other items needed for survival.

“All parties to the conflict must allow the passage of humanitarian assistance,” the Special Rapporteur said. “Any wilful impediment of relief supplies may amount to war crimes under international law.”

ENDS

Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar

For more information and media requests, please contact: Pradeep Wagle (+41 22 917 98 66 / pwagle@ohchr.org
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 9179383 / jlaurence@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 Rightswww.standup4humanrights.org.

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