Rights expert calls for ‘COVID ceasefire’, urges UN action — Global Issues

Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said junta forces carried out at least 260 attacks on medical personnel and facilities, killing at least 18. Meanwhile, more than 600 health care professionals are currently evading pending arrest warrants and at least 67 have been detained.

No time for complacency

He urged the Security Council and Member States “to use all UN tools”, including the passing of resolutions, to demand that Myanmar’s military rulers, known officially as the State Administrative Council (SAC), stop all attacks, particularly against healthcare professionals .

“Too many in Myanmar have died needlessly and too many will die without United Nations action.” he warned.

“United Nations member states cannot afford to be complacent as the junta relentlessly attacks medical personnel if COVID-19 spreads uncontrollably. They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and help international organizations provide vaccinations and related medical care.”

Resolution on ceasefire

Myanmar’s military seized power in February, sparking numerous pro-democracy protests across the country, which were met with violent crackdowns and widespread human rights abuses.

Andrews said the junta has killed at least 931 people, while some 5,630 others are being held in arbitrary detention where they are at risk coronavirus infection. Another 255 people have been convicted of “trumped-up crimes,” he added, of whom 26, including two minors, were sentenced to death.

In February, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire in all conflict zones so that vaccinations against COVID-19 can take place and to allow humanitarian and medical personnel safe and unimpeded access.

Attacks must stop

“This resolution provided a principled framework to address the outbreak of COVID-19 in states experiencing rampant violence. Given this escalating crisis, these demands should now be targeted specifically at Myanmar. Doing this will save untold numbers of lives,” said Mr. Andrews.

“Of course, the best outcome would be for the junta to step down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis.” he added.

“But in the short term, the junta’s relentless attacks and detentions must end. To make this possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its member states to take strong, principled action.”

Role of rapporteurs

Special Rapporteurs, such as Mr Andrews, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.

They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN personnel, nor do they receive any salary from the Organization.

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