Myanmar military engaged in widespread abuses: UN human rights chief

Michelle Bachelet says some of the systematic abuses by military may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Myanmar military engaged in widespread abuses: UN human rights chief

The international community must take immediate measures to stem the spiral of violence in Myanmar, where the military has engaged in widespread human rights violations and abuses, the UN human rights chief said Tuesday.

"The military has engaged in systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses – some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a new report.

Bachelet released the report for the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, in which she said Myanmar's military and security forces have shown a flagrant disregard for human life, bombarding populated areas with airstrikes and heavy weapons.

They have deliberately targeted civilians, many of whom have been shot in the head, burned to death, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, or used as human shields, she said in a statement on the report.

"Throughout the tumult and violence of the past year, the will of the people has clearly not been broken.

"They remain committed to seeing a return to democracy and to institutions that reflect their will and aspirations," she added.

The report covers the period since the Feb. 1, 2021 military takeover and is based on interviews with over 155 victims, witnesses and advocates.

Bachelet said their accounts were corroborated with satellite imagery, verified multimedia files and credible open-source information.

"Its findings, however, represent only a fraction of the violations and abuses Myanmar's people have been subjected to since the coup," said the report.

Citing the determination of Myanmar's people in their opposition to the coup, Bachelet called on the international community to do all it can to resolve the crisis and hold perpetrators of gross violations of international human rights law accountable.

At least 1,600 killed

Security forces and their affiliates have killed at least 1,600 people, and more than 12,500 people have been detained since the coup.

At least 440,000 others have been displaced and 14 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, the delivery of which has largely been blocked by the military in new and pre-existing areas of need.

The report said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the military, the Tatmadaw, had engaged in violence and abuse as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against civilians – patterns of conduct that may amount to crimes against humanity.

While security forces carried out most of the gross human rights violations documented, at least 543 individuals – including local administrators, their families and alleged informants – were also reportedly killed due to their perceived support of the military.

Anti-coup armed elements claimed responsibility for 95 of the incidents, said the report.