Myanmar: Hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including violence against women | Joint letter

Full pdf joint letter

On 19 December 2021, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada joined more than 600 human rights and women’s rights organizations around the world that have endorsed an open letter to the UN Security Council by the Women’s Peace Network, which is composed of lawyers, community leaders, and peace activists from Myanmar and around the world to peacefully promote and protect human rights. The letter was sent to members of the Security Council on Monday, 20 December 2021. See the letter and signatories below.

December 19, 2021

 Hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including violence against women

Dear Members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council,

We, the undersigned women’s rights and human rights organizations, call upon the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for their grave human rights violations, including the use of violence against women. We strongly condemn the Myanmar military and security forces for their acts in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and norms, which amount to crimes against humanity according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, and the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Since the Myanmar military’s attempted seizure of power on February 1, 2021, the junta has arbitrarily arrested and detained at least 11,047 people, and murdered over 1345. Nationwide, the Myanmar military junta is intensifying its use of air strikes and other heavy weapons against civilians, forcing thousands of women and children to flee their homes. Given the Myanmar military and security forces’ decades-long use of sexual and gender-based violence against ethnic minority women, including Rohingya, we are extremely distressed that the situation of the women of Myanmar will continue to be severely exacerbated.

Today, we write this letter to draw attention to the Myanmar military junta’s widespread and systematic use of violence against women in particular since February 1, 2021. Among such brutalities, the following cases demonstrate the junta’s acts in violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and norms, including the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and in contravention of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325:

  1. On February 9, in Naypyidaw, Naypyidaw Union Territory, a Myanmar Police Force officer fired a submachine gun at a group of civilians in a non-violent anti-coup demonstration, shooting 19-year-old Mya Thwet Thwet Khaing in the head and resulting in her death a week later.
  2. On March 3, in Mandalay, Mandalay Region, the Myanmar military and security forces fired live ammunition at a group of civilians in a non-violent anti-coup demonstration, murdering 19-year-old Kyal Sin, or Angel.
  3. On April 3, in Mutraw District, Karen State, following its wave of airstrikes on the Thai-Myanmar border from March 27 to April 1, the Myanmar military fired shells into villages, killing a woman in Ler Day Village; four days later, the military fired shells into Nay Ga Village, injuring two women and an 11-year-old girl.
  4. On April 17, in Yankin Township, Yangon Region, the Myanmar military and security forces arbitrarily detained 31-year-old Khin Nyein Thu, 19-year-old Hsu Linn Htet, and four men for their alleged involvement in a series of bomb attacks; and at an interrogation center in the city’s Shwepyithar Township, tortured and sexually assaulted Khin Nyein Thu, including by kicking and beating her sexual organs with a stick until they bled.
  5. On May 25, in Tawseint Village, Magwe Region, approximately 70 soldiers and officers of the Myanmar military and security forces raided the area and fired live ammunition at residents for their alleged involvement in producing anti-coup graffiti, murdering 24-year-old Saung Hnin Hmon.
  6. On June 13, in Bamun Village, Mandalay Region, the Myanmar military and security forces arbitrarily detained 5-year-old Su Htet Wine, her 44-year-old mother, and 17-year-old sister when attempting to arrest her father, a local protest leader. While Su Htet Wine was released on June 30, her mother and sister were sentenced in July to three years in prison for alleged incitement.
  7. On July 27, in Mandalay, Mandalay Region, the Myanmar military and security forces fired live ammunition at a group of civilians in a non-violent anti-coup demonstration, murdering 25-year-old Thu Thu Zin. Her body has yet to be returned to her family.
  8. On September 1, in Paung Township, Mon State, the Myanmar military and security forces fired live ammunition at 27-year-old Ei Thwe Moe, who was five months pregnant, and her husband, killing them both.
  9. On October 28, in Pyin Htaung Village, Sagaing Region, the Myanmar military and security forces raided the area and fired live ammunition at civilians, killing six-year-old Myo Thandar Hlaing.
  10. On November 7, in Kutkai Township, Shan State, a soldier from the Myanmar military and security forces raped a 62-year-old woman.
  11. On November 11, in Aklui Village, Chin State, a group of soldiers from the Myanmar military and security forces raided the area, plundered its homes, and gang raped a 27-year-old woman and her 30-year-old sister-in-law.
  12. On December 5, in Kyimyindaing Township, Yangon Region, a Myanmar military vehicle rammed into a group of civilians in a non-violent anti-coup demonstration, resulting in fatalities and leaving many injured; soldiers then fired at the demonstrators and arbitrarily detained at least three women, including Mya Kyu Kyu Thin, Yin May Aung, and Hmuu Yadanar Khet Moh Moh Htun.

We would like to share our sincere appreciation for the member states’ continued efforts to raise awareness of the ongoing atrocities, including by issuing statements and resolutions. However, ten months after the coup attempt, we fear that words alone cannot be deemed effective in putting an end to the junta’s violence and protecting the lives of the country’s people. For over thirty years, the Myanmar military and security forces that compose the junta today have wielded violence to subjugate the country’s ethnic minority communities. According to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, sexual and gender-based violence — including rape, gang rape, sexual mutilation, sexual slavery — have been the hallmark of the Myanmar military and security forces’ commission of mass atrocity crimes, including genocide against Rohingya. Providing further evidence of such terror in Myanmar, women’s rights and human rights organizations have long urged for justice to be served to the victims and survivors of the military’s brutalities. Yet, the international community’s  failure to take concerted action to meet such decades-long calls for accountability has instead emboldened the Myanmar military and security forces to launch a coup attempt, and intensify their use of violence nationwide. We now believe that the junta is perpetrating crimes against humanity across the entire country, and are asking you to take all the necessary measures to protect the people of Myanmar today.

Therefore, we, the undersigned organizations, urge the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable by adopting a resolution to

  1. Refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court in order hold the Myanmar military and security forces accountable for committing crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence, under international law.
  2. Impose targeted economic sanctions, financial penalties, and restrictions on the junta leadership and businesses that are owned and controlled by the Myanmar military and security forces; and freeze their assets.
  3. Impose a comprehensive and global arms embargo on Myanmar.

We thank you for your leadership and attention to this matter.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any questions or concerns.

Wai Wai Nu
Founder and Executive Director
Women’s Peace Network

Naw Hser Hser
General Secretary
Women’s League of Burma

Ma Chaw Wutye Aye
Women Alliance Burma

Signed by 618 Myanmar and international human rights and women’s rights organizations,* including:

  1. Abductees’ Mothers Association
  3. ACDI/VOCA Myanmar
  4. African Women 4 Empowerment
  5. Aliran, Malaysia
  6. Alliance of Inclusive Muslims (AIM)
  7. ALTSEAN-Burma
  8. Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) – Philippines
  9. American Rohingya Advocacy/Arakan Institute for Peace and Development
  10. Anti hate movement
  11. Asia Democracy Network
  12. Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  13. Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development
  14. Asia Pacific Partnership for Atrocity Prevention (APPAP)
  15. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters-HRDP
  16. Association of War Affected Women
  17. Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM)
  18. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  19. Aware Girls
  20. Balai Syura Ureung Inong Aceh
  21. BALAOD Mindanaw
  22. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  23. Blood Money Campaign
  24. Bukluran ng Manggagawng Pilipino (BMP/Solidarity of Filipino Workers)
  25. Burma Action Ireland
  26. Burma Campaign UK
  27. Burma Task Force
  28. Burmese American Millennials
  29. Burmese Democratic Forces
  30. Bytes For All, Pakistan
  31. Center for Social Integrity
  32. Center of Excellence on Women and Social Security, Walailak University, Thailand
  33. Centre for Human Rights and Development
  34. Centre for Inclusive Governance, Peace and Justice
  35. Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University
  36. Chin Leaders of Tomorrow (CLT)
  37. Citizenship Affected Peoples’ Network CAPN – Nepal
  38. Community Initiatives for Development in Pakistan
  39. Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention
  40. Dalit Foundation
  41. Deep Germany
  42. East Yangon University Legal Information Center
  43. Equal Asia Foundation (Stichting EqualA Foundation)
  44. Equality Bahamas
  45. Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France
  46. European Karen Network
  47. European Rohingya Council
  48. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  49. Fondazione Pangea
  51. Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion
  52. Free Burma Action Bay/USA/Global
  53. Free Myanmar Campaign USA/BACI
  54. Freedom for Burma
  55. Freedom, Justice, Equality for Myanmar
  56. Fresh Eyes, United Kingdom
  57. Fund for Congolese Women
  58. Gaston Z Ortigas Peace Institute (Philippines)
  59. Genocide Watch
  60. Global DEEP Network
  61. Global Justice Center
  62. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
  63. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)
  64. Globe International Center, Mongolia
  65. Hope Revival Organization
  66. HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  67. Human right organization
  68. ICR / No Business with Genocide / Campaign for a New Myanmar
  69. In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND)
  70. Initiative to Promote Tolerance and Prevent Violence (INITIATE.MY)
  71. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
  72. Institute for Asian Democracy
  73. Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies
  74. International Association of People’s Lawyers
  75. International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN)
  76. International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
  77. International Karen Organization
  78. International Peace Bureau (IPB)
  79. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
  80. Iraqi Women Network
  81. Islamic Renaissance Front
  82. Justice Base
  83. Justice4Rohingya UK
  84. Karen Community of Canada
  85. Karen Human Rights Group
  86. Karen Organization of America
  87. Karen Peace Support Network
  88. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
  89. LA Rohingya Association/America Rohingya Justice Network
  90. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  91. Loka Ahlinn (LA)
  92. Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA)
  93. Mandalay Federalism Institute
  94. Manushya Foundation
  95. Maramagri Youth Network
  96. MARUAH
  97. Mercy Corps
  98. Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND)
  99. Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc.
  100. Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers, International Association of    People’s Lawyers (IAPL)
  101. Montréal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
  102. Myanmar Advocacy Coalition
  103. Myanmar Student Community – Thailand
  104. Naripokkho, Bangladesh
  105. National Domestic Woman Workers Union
  106. Nationalities Alliance of Burma USA
  107. Never Again Coalition
  108. Nobel Women’s Initiative
  109. Nonviolence International – Ukraine
  110. Novelita V. Palisoc
  111. Office of Nobel Laureate and former President
  112. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr
  113. Pacific Conference of Churches
  114. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
  115. Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization
  116. Participatory Research & Action Network- PRAAN
  117. Pathways for Women’s Empowerment and Development (PaWED)
  118. Pax Romana Delegate at UNO Vienna
  119. Peace and Security Cluster, AEPF
  120. Peace Track Initiative
  121. Peace Women Partners, Inc.
  122. Peacebuilding Project
  123. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
  124. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) South Korea
  125. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
  126. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  127. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  128. Psychological Responsiveness NGO
  129. Public Association “Dignity”
  130. Rakhine Ethnics Congress
  131. RCDC
  132. Rockflower Partners Inc.
  133. Rohingya Action Ireland
  134. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights
  135. Sassoufit collective
  136. SERAPAZ
  137. Shan Women’s Action Network
  138. Sisters of Charity Federation
  139. Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
  140. Sokhany Prak from Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP)
  141. Southeast Asia Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN)
  142. Southeast Asian Women Peacebuilders Network (SEAWP)
  143. Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
  144. Students for Free Burma
  145. Support the Democracy Movement in Burma
  146. Textile Garment Federation
  147. The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) – Indonesia
  148. The Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Women Division
  149. Think Centre
  150. U.S. Campaign for Burma
  151. UNI GLOBAL UNION – Asia and Pacific
  152. Uni Sri Lanka Affiliate Council Women’s Committee.
  153. Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA
  154. Verein zur Förderung der Völkerverständigung (VFV)
  155. Visionary Foundation Pakistan
  156. Voices From Friends
  157. Vrede vzw (Belgium)
  158. WiLDAF-Afrique de l’Ouest
  159. Women Activists Myanmar
  160. Women Alliance Burma
  161. Women Advocacy Coalition Myanmar
  162. Women Education Development Organization of Liberia
  163. Women’s Aid Organisation
  164. Women’s League of Burma
  165. Women’s Peace Network
  166. Women’s Refugee Commission
  167. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
  168. World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy
  169. YLBHI/Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation
  170. Young Pride Club
  171. Youth Core Group on Atrocity Prevention

*447 Myanmar organizations have signed our letter anonymously due to security concerns.