Myanmar Army Accused of Blocking Critical Humanitarian Aid
This is the second time this week that Myanmar faces a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Myanmar’s government and military have been systematically blocking humanitarian aid from reaching internally displaced persons (IDP) in the country’s Kachin state in direct violation of international law, according to a new report by the human rights organization Fortify Rights.
The military has been engaged in a civil war with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for the past several years and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because of the fighting, putting them at risk of hunger, disease, and more.
In an act of “weaponizing” aid, Myanmar has been preventing aid from reaching IDP camps to inflict harm on civilians and force the insurgents’ surrender, according to Fortify Rights.
“Consecutive governments and the military have willfully obstructed local and international aid groups, denying Kachin civilians access to aid,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, in a press release. “This may amount to a war crime, giving even more reason for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.”
“Depriving civilians of aid in an attempt to overcome an ethnic army is a perverse, unlawful, and ineffective strategy,” he said. “All parties to this war have a duty to protect civilians and that includes by ensuring access to adequate aid.”
To reach an IDP camp in Kachin, humanitarian aid groups have to apply for a travel permit that secures safe passage with the Myanmar government. Over the past several years, the government has rejected the vast majority of applications, including 95% of 562 applications between June 2017 and July 2018. Even fewer requests were approved for aid meant for people in areas held by the KIA.
For applications that are approved, a lengthy and onerous approval process often stalls aid from reaching IDPs in a timely manner.
“Due to the lack of essential aid, displaced civilians in Kachin State reported increased food insecurity, avoidable health-related deaths, poor living conditions, and protection concerns,” Fortify Rights said in a press release.
Because of this systematic denial of aid, Fortify Rights is calling on the United Nations Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
That’s the second call this week for Myanmar to be investigated by the ICC. The first referral request involves the military’s genocidal intent in the mass expulsion of Rohingya from the country.
At a press briefing in Geneva, @UNHumanRights investigators outlined the organized nature of the brutality meted out on civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since 2011, as well as Kachin and Shan states. https://t.co/PePgBueDZ9— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) August 27, 2018
“The crimes in Rakhine state, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity, and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” the UN wrote in its report supporting the ICC referral.
This latest referral shows how deeply the violation of human rights are ingrained in Myanmar’s military culture and provides more evidence for top officials to face consequences.
In the meantime, Fortify Rights is calling for humanitarian aid groups to have unfettered access to displaced persons in Myanmar.
“Kachin civil society has long exposed how the military’s crimes are part of a longstanding campaign against ethnic communities,” Smith said. “The international community should redouble support for Myanmar’s human rights defenders and break the cycle of impunity.”