IBA and IBAHRI condemn the killing of protestors in Myanmar and rampant violence of security forces
The International Bar Association and International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute condemn the killing of unarmed anti-coup protestors in Myanmar and the escalation in violence meted out against them by the police and security forces.
IBA President Sternford Moyo said: ‘It is incomprehensible and appalling that the very people who should be protecting and serving the citizens of Myanmar, are instead killing them. Reports that police and security forces have killed more than 50 unarmed protestors, including four children or teenagers, is shocking. Peaceful protest is a basic human right for which nobody should have their life prematurely ended. Any semblance of the rule of law has disintegrated in Myanmar with the illegitimate takeover over of the country. The IBA stands with the brave people of Myanmar who, knowing they could die in pursuit of democracy, face the unbridled might of the military with nothing more than their ideals and courage.’
News reports and video footage have shown police and security forces, across several cities in Myanmar, engage in violent acts against peaceful unarmed demonstrators, including firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and water cannons, throwing stun grenades and spraying tear gas. The death toll and number of people seriously injured are rising. The junta’s crackdown is increasingly brutal. Latest reports are of 50 dead and many injured since the coup began on 1 February 2021, after an election result that returned Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to power.
Foreshadowing the violence, the State Administration Council in Myanmar released a statement on 22 February 2021 declaring that the government had found that civilian protesters had raised their level of agitation to riots and anarchy, consistent with a path where the inevitable conclusion was one where protestors would ‘suffer a loss of life.’
IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis stated: ‘It is clear that the military has no other ambition than to stamp out all expressions of dissent and assert control over the people of Myanmar at any cost. The extrajudicial killings, savage beatings of unarmed civilians, medical workers and journalists, the arbitrary mass arrests and detentions must not be allowed to go unpunished. From the foot soldiers to the head of the military all must be held to account in a court of law.’
Dr Ellis added: ‘Each person killed cannot become just a statistic. The right to life is a basic human right enshrined in international law. The State Administration Council’s attempt to appropriate law to justify its treatment of peaceful protesters is nauseating and an affront to the rule of law.’
The State Administration Council’s declaration infringes on the right of the people of Myanmar to peacefully assemble. Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Myanmar is not a state party but which is recognised as customary international law, reads: ‘The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized.’ Furthermore, by issuing threats to the deprivation of life for partaking in the protests, the Council’s statement violates Myanmar’s civilians’ inherent right to life, as safeguarded under Article 6(1) of the ICCPR: ‘Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.’
IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said: ‘The State Administration Council in Myanmar’s actions are an affront to basic human decency and further violate numerous inherent rights of the people of Myanmar. The State Administration Council should conform to the customs set forth by other states in the ICCPR and refrain from employing deadly force against peaceful protestors. Any use of deadly force against those peacefully protesting must be vehemently condemned by the international community.’
Since the military coup, civilians have gathered in their thousands across Myanmar to peacefully protest or take part in civil disobedience, demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and party officials who have been detained since the coup.
The military junta has attempted to stop the protests by banning gatherings of more than five people, implementing overnight curfews, cutting off internet access and deploying troops to large cities. But still the people gather.
Notes to the Editor
- Related material:
- The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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