Myanmar junta crackdown likely crimes against humanity requiring
coordinated international response – UN expert

GENEVA (11 March 2021) – The Myanmar junta’s brutal response to peaceful protests likely meets the legal threshold for crimes against humanity, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council today, calling for a united global response in the country’s hour of need.

“The people of Myanmar need not only words of support but supportive action,” said Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. “They need the help of the international community, now.”

Andrews stressed that a growing body of reporting indicates that the junta’s security forces are committing acts of murder, imprisonment, persecution and other crimes as part of a coordinated campaign, directed against a civilian population, in a widespread and systematic manner, with the knowledge of the junta’s leadership – thereby likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.

With the UN Security Council seemingly unwilling to invoke its Chapter VII authority, Andrews said Member States must rally together to take action.

“Today I am therefore urging that as many Member States as possible commit to taking strong, decisive and coordinated action as a coalition of nations – an Emergency Coalition for the People of Myanmar,” he said.

In a statement to the Council, Andrews outlined five options that such a coalition could take immediately:

  1. stop the flow of funds to the junta, including by imposing targeted sanctions on the junta’s business enterprises and on Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, the single largest source of revenue to the State of Myanmar;
  2. impose an international arms embargo;
  3. ensure accountability for the crimes, through national courts using universal jurisdiction if the Security Council is unwilling to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court;
  4. work directly with local civil society and aid organizations to provide humanitarian assistance whenever possible; and
  5. deny recognition of the military junta as the legitimate government representing the people of Myanmar.

“I sincerely hope that the international community will rise to the occasion of this moment of history by following the lead and the inspiration of the people of Myanmar by coming to their aid as a coordinated whole, in this their moment of need.”

In a report to the Human Rights Council, Andrews details how the Myanmar military illegally overthrew the civilian government last month and proceeded to attack the people of Myanmar by committing the crimes of murder, assault and arbitrary detention. He also details human rights violations preceding the coup in an annex to the report.


Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar

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