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Civilian casualties, including Rohingya, surge in Myanmar, say UN experts

11:13 20 February 2020 Author :  

The experts said that the reports reveal that over the past 10 days, nearly 1,100 people have been displaced, including 600 civilians from We Ma Kya village in Kyauktaw

United Nations independent experts have expressed grave concerns about indiscriminate killing and displacement of civilians, including Rohingya, in northwest Myanmar during fighting between the military and an armed group, the Arakan Army, amid an information blackout in some parts of the restive Rakhine and Chin States.

Attacks were carried out against civilians using helicopters and Navy ships, they said, reminding the order on provisional measures with respect to the Rohingya minority by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organization of the UN.

"Civilians, including children, continue to bear the brunt of this escalating conflict," said a joint statement issued on Tuesday by four UN experts -- Yanghee Lee, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues.

"We are especially fearful for them as violence has increased in the areas where an internet shutdown was recently re-imposed. It is well known that human rights violations and abuses occur during security operations in Myanmar," it said.

On February 3, the Ministry of Transport and Communications suspended mobile internet services for a period of three months in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Myebon in Rakhine State and in Paletwa in Chin State. The Ministry has reportedly cited “security requirements and public interest” as the reasons for the shutdown. There has been a suspension in place in four other townships, including Kyauktaw, since June 2019.

Since February 4, the experts have received credible reports of the daily fighting using helicopters and Navy ships. Fighting and the possible use of heavy weaponry have also been reported near ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya villages in Kyauktaw, Paletwa, Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships. 

The experts said that the reports reveal that over the past 10 days, nearly 1,100 people have been displaced, including 600 civilians from We Ma Kya village in Kyauktaw.

The experts said they had received information that at least seven civilians have been killed, including three Rohingya in Buthidaung, and as many as 50 injured, including 21 Khami children who came under fire at an elementary school in Kha Mawe Cahung village in Buthidaung on February 13. 

In Kyauktaw township, local sources reported that one Rohingya boy died on his way to a hospital after being hurt by the shelling, and seven civilians were reportedly wounded, including three Rohingya. 

A monastery was reportedly burned to the ground after being hit by an artillery.

"We are gravely concerned that children are being killed and injured, and that reports suggest weapons are being used indiscriminately, and precautions are not being taken to protect civilians and civilian objects such as schools and monasteries, in violation of international humanitarian law," said the statement.

"We note that the International Court of Justice ordered the provisional measures in relation to the Rohingya minority and they must be followed," it said.

"We call on all parties to the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and international human rights law and protect civilians at all times," said the statement.

"The blanket suspension of mobile internet cannot be justified and must end immediately. The government must also lift its restrictions and grant immediate access to the media, humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors," it said./DT

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