Atrocity Alert 261: Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – Myanmar
Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication of the World Center for the Responsibility to Protect that highlights situations in which people are at risk of or experience mass atrocities.
COVID-19 ON THE RISE IN MYANMAR AS MILITARY JUNTE ATTACKS HEALTH WORKERS
Myanmar is in the midst of a catastrophic wave of COVID-19 infections, with the number of new cases increasing daily and the positivity rate reaching over 30% among those tested for the virus. The country’s health system is unable to cope with the upsurge in infections and deaths.
Since the military toppled the civilian-led Burmese government on February 1, it has reversed all progress made to contain COVID-19. The violent crackdown by the security forces, which killed more than 900 civilians, has driven many health workers into hiding. On July 7, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, warned that “Myanmar is at serious risk of becoming a COVID-19 super-spreader state, affecting a number countless people both inside and outside its borders. . “
Since the coup, security forces have targeted medical professionals treating injured protesters and issued hundreds of arrest warrants for doctors and nurses accused of supporting the civil disobedience movement. At least 12 medics have been killed by the military since February, while the World Health Organization has recorded at least 240 attacks on Myanmar health workers, ambulances and medical facilities. The junta also arrested the leader of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, who was appointed by the former government.
Security forces have also occupied dozens of hospitals across the country, in violation of international law, discouraging patients from seeking medical help. In addition, many people cannot access health care due to coup curfews and high medical costs, hundreds of COVID-19 patients are believed to die at home. Most hospitals that accept COVID-19 patients are now filled beyond their maximum capacity.
Hospitals and health clinics are also experiencing a chronic shortage of medical oxygen. At a press conference on Monday, July 12, a junta spokesman said the military had banned factories from selling oxygen cylinders to individuals and ordered them to provide facilities instead exclusively medical facilities controlled by the military. The military also raided and confiscated medical supplies from some private companies and charities.
Despite the health crisis, the security forces also continue to persecute those resisting the junta. In addition to the 911 people killed since February 1, more than 5,200 people are still detained for opposing the coup, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. It is essential that the international community increases diplomatic pressure on the Burmese military, while actively supporting humanitarian organizations trying to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic.
MORE MASSIVE CHILD Abductions in Nigeria
Mass kidnappings of schoolchildren by armed extremist groups and criminal “bandits” have become endemic in northern Nigeria. In the latest incident, more than 140 students were abducted from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna state on July 5 when a group of gunmen arrived on motorcycles and overpowered school security personnel. It was at least the fourth such incident in Kaduna since March and prompted the state government to announce the preventive closure of 13 schools. Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said that “in the past six weeks alone, nearly 500 children have been abducted in four separate incidents in the center and north-west of the country. “.
Attacks on schools are a serious violation of the universal rights of children. It is estimated that 1,120 schools are now closed in northwest Nigeria due to widespread insecurity, disrupting the education of more than 300,000 children. In the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where extremist armed groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA) are still active, 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms have been destroyed.
Mass kidnappings have become a lucrative criminal enterprise in Nigeria because authorities and children’s families often pay ransoms, although the government denies doing so. Of the approximately 950 children abducted since December, the majority have returned.
The kidnappings come amid a wider deterioration in security in Nigeria, with Boko Haram and ISWA increasing their attacks. Gunmen stormed the village of Dabna in Adamawa state on July 7 and killed at least 18 people. Armed bandits also attack communities in the northwest, while engaging in cattle rustling, kidnappings, looting, rape and murder. On July 9, more than 100 armed men attacked the town of Faru in Zamfara state, killing at least 45 people. In June, at least 88 people were killed when bandits attacked seven villages in Kebbi state.
School closures are not a viable long-term solution to keeping children safe and protecting their right to education. The government must address the root causes of armed extremism and banditry through socio-economic initiatives and policy reforms that target poverty, corruption, youth unemployment and the rule of law. In line with its 2014 commitment to the Safe Schools Initiative, the federal government of Nigeria should work with local communities to strengthen security and end mass kidnappings and violence against children.
UN REPORT CONCLUDED ILLEGAL ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS A WAR CRIME
In a new report released on July 8, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, for the first time concluded that illegal Israeli settlements constitute a war crime . According to Lynk, “For Israel, the settlements have two interrelated objectives. One is to ensure that the occupied territory will remain under Israeli control in perpetuity. The second objective is to ensure that there will never be a true Palestinian state. “
The Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. There are now nearly 300 illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank with more than 680,000 Israeli residents. Israeli settlements continue to expand and according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 466 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished or seized by Israeli authorities since January. The decades-long Israeli occupation has resulted in widespread human rights violations against Palestinians and a two-tier legal system that some have called the international crime of apartheid.
Special Rapporteur Lynk pointed out that “the establishment of settlers” – or the transfer of parts of a civilian population into occupied territory – constitutes “demographic engineering”. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court prohibit this practice. He also noted that the recent cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in East Jerusalem are “emblematic” of the continued forced displacement of Palestinians “in an attempt to establish a Jewish majority in the city and to create irreversible demographic facts on the ground. “.
Noting that the illegality of Israeli settlements has been confirmed by the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, as well as the International Court of Justice, Special Rapporteur Lynk stressed that “It is a tragic paradox that, while Israeli settlements are clearly prohibited by international law, the international community has been remarkably reluctant to enforce its own laws.