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Myanmar: Expert calls for “COVID ceasefire”; urges new UN resolution

GEVEVA (27 July 2021) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar called on the United Nations Security Council and Member States to push for an emergency "COVID ceasefire" today in light of an explosion of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Myanmar even as the State Administrative Council (SAC) escalates its attacks against health care workers.

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews stressed the urgent need for Member States to use all the tools of the UN, including passage of resolutions demanding that the SAC immediately cease all attacks, especially against health care professionals who are desperately needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to devastate Myanmar.

"Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations," Andrews warned. "The UN must act immediately to halt the military junta's attacks, harassment, and detentions in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis.

"Member States of the United Nations cannot afford to be complacent while the junta ruthlessly attacks medical personnel as COVID-19 spreads unchecked. They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and international organisations can help deliver vaccinations and related medical care," Andrews said.

"Member States with influence on Myanmar's State Administrative Council must follow passage of a UN resolution by urging an immediate cessation of attacks."

The junta has murdered at least 931 people and is holding at least 5,630 in arbitrary detention where they are in danger of being infected with the virus. Another 255 people have been sentenced for trumped up crimes, with 26 of them - two of whom are minors - sentenced to death. According to the UNHCR, there are 570,320 internally displaced persons currently living in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayin, Mon, and Bago states.

Junta forces have engaged in at least 260 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, claiming the lives of at least 18 people. Over 600 health care professionals are currently eluding outstanding arrest warrants and at least 67 are being held by junta forces.

In February, the UN Security Council passed a strong resolution demanding ceasefires in all States experiencing conflict. Resolution 2565 demanded "all parties to armed conflicts engage immediately in a durable, extensive, and sustained humanitarian pause to facilitate the equitable, safe and unhindered delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in areas of armed conflict". The Council further called for "full, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access, without delay, for humanitarian personnel and medical personnel, their equipment, transport and supplies, in order to facilitate, inter alia, COVID-19 vaccinations, as appropriate". It also demanded the "protection, safety, and security of such humanitarian and medical personnel…"

"This resolution represented a principled framework to address the outbreak of COVID-19 in States experiencing unrestrained violence. Given this escalating crisis, these demands must now be focused specifically on Myanmar. Doing so will save untold numbers of lives."

Andrews concluded: "Of course the best outcome would be for the junta to stand down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis. But in the immediate term, the junta's relentless attacks and detentions must end. For this to be possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its Member States to step up with strong, principled action."

ENDS

Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Mr. Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University's Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar

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