GENEVA (4 March 2021) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday said security forces in Myanmar must “halt their vicious crackdown on peaceful protestors,” following another day of deadly violence across the country on Wednesday.
“Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protestors,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country. I am also appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those who have been injured.”
The UN Human Rights Office has corroborated information that at least 54 people have been killed by police and military officers since the 1 February coup. The actual death toll, however, could be much higher as these are the figures the Office has been able to verify.
Of the 54 cases documented by the UN Human Rights Office, at least 30 people were killed in Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magway and Mon by security forces on Wednesday. Another person was documented to have been killed on Tuesday, 18 people on Sunday and five prior to that. It is difficult to establish how many people have suffered injuries, but credible information indicates, at a minimum, hundreds have been wounded during protests.
Since 1 February, over 1,700 people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in relation to their participation in protests or engagement in political activity, including members of parliament, political activists and election officials, authors, human rights defenders, teachers, healthcare workers, civil servants, journalists, monks, and celebrities. However, the actual number of those detained is likely to be much higher, given that demonstrations are reported to have taken place in 537 locations throughout the country where monitoring developments has not always been possible.
Reports also indicate that a handful of individuals have already been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven days to two years. Others are known to have been charged and are awaiting trial. Another 61 people who are being sought by the military authorities are in hiding.
The number of arbitrary arrests and detentions have escalated in recent days – on Wednesday alone, at least 700 people were detained. In many instances, soldiers and police are reported to be conducting door-to-door searches and detaining people. While some are eventually released, in many cases relatives have informed the UN Human Rights Office that they have received no information about where their loved ones are being held. The family of one community leader in Yangon said that he had not been heard from since he was taken by soldiers from his home in the middle of the night on 1 February. UN human rights staff have received numerous similar accounts.
“Many of the arbitrary arrests and detentions that have been carried out since 1 February may constitute enforced disappearances,” Bachelet said, calling for the immediate release of all those who remain arbitrarily detained.
According to the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, an enforced disappearance occurs where an individual is detained by, or with the acquiescence of, State actors and there is no official acknowledgement or information about the individuals’ wellbeing and whereabouts.
The High Commissioner also expressed concern at the targeting of journalists: at least 29 journalists have reportedly been arrested in recent days, at least eight of whom have been charged with crimes, including incitement to opposition, or hatred of the Government, or attending an unlawful assembly.
“I urge all those with information and influence – including Myanmar officials who are now joining the civil disobedience movement – to support international efforts to hold military leaders accountable for the serious human rights violations that have been committed both now and in the past,” Bachelet said, citing the work of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and proceedings before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
“This is the moment to turn the tables towards justice and end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar.”
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