GENEVA: The UN human rights chief and the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide on Sunday issued a clear warning of a heightened risk of atrocity crimes in Myanmar, following another day of widespread bloodshed by the Myanmar military.
Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, and Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, issued a joint statement as the death toll in Myanmar’s bloodiest day on Saturday rose to 141, including at least seven children.
“The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police – who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children – must be halted immediately,” Bachelet and Nderitu said. “The international community has a responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from atrocity crimes.”
Bachelet and Nderitu called on the military to immediately stop killing the very people it must serve and protect.
The two senior UN officials strongly condemned the Myanmar military’s widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other severe violations of human rights since the Feb. 1 putsch.
They said thousands of people have also been arbitrarily arrested – many subjected to enforced disappearance.
Above those killed, hundreds more were wounded and detained during these seemingly coordinated attacks in over 40 locations throughout the country.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact that the current situation may have on these populations and are closely monitoring developments. The rights of minority groups, including the Rohingya population, must be fully respected,” the two UN officials said.
Nderitu and Bachelet also called for an end to systemic impunity in Myanmar.
“We must ensure accountability for past crimes and deter the most serious international crimes from being committed,” they said. “The failure to address the atrocity crimes the Tatmadaw has committed in the past, including against Rohingya and other minorities, has brought Myanmar to this terrible pass.”
Bachelet and Nderitu said there is no way forward in Myanmar without accountability and the military’s fundamental reform.
The senior officials urged all parties – including defecting officials, police, and military officers – to cooperate with international mechanisms.
These include the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar in fighting impunity in the country.
The special adviser and the rights chief called on the UN Security Council to take further steps, building on its statement of March 10, and also the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the wider international community to act promptly to uphold the responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from atrocity crimes.
They stressed that the Myanmar state has the primary responsibility to protect its population, but the international community shares that responsibility.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact that the current situation may have on these populations and are closely monitoring developments,” said Bachelet and Nderitu.
They noted the diversity of the protest movement and encouraged the newfound sense of unity across ethnic and religious divides, as well as the growing recognition of past crimes against minorities, including the Muslim Rohingya.