By Jeffrey Moyo

JOHANNESBURG (ACP-IDN) – Mariette Lieferink has been dubbed South Africa’s climate change hero and she is prominently featured as the country's leading environmental activist in South African media.

Now, moved by the heavy contribution of the country's mines to climate change, Lieferink, who heads the Federation for a Sustainable Development (FSE), is working flat out to clean up the hugely polluted mining areas of Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, which is also one of the world's 50 largest urban areas.

According to Lieferink, climate change is a potential disaster, poised to trigger the 'toxic time bomb' left by over 120 years of mining, particularly across Johannesburg, which is also South Africa’s industrial hub.

- Photo: 2021

UN Condemns ‘Shameful, Cowardly’ Attacks on Peaceful Protesters in Myanmar

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) — UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned in the strongest terms, the killing of dozens of civilians, including children and young people, by security forces in Myanmar on March 27.

In a statement issued by Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, the UN chief said, “the continuing military crackdown…is unacceptable and demands a firm, unified and resolute international response”. 

The highest daily death toll since demonstrations began in February resulted as Myanmar’s military celebrated Armed Forces Day with a parade in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw, soldiers and police suppressed protesters.

“The military celebrated Armed Forces Day by committing mass murder against the people it should be defending”, tweeted Tom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

He added that the Civil Disobedience Movement is responding with “powerful weapons of peace” and called for the world “to respond in kind with and for the people of Myanmar”. 

The military seized control of the country and declared a year-long state of emergency on February 1, following a general election in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.

While Ms. Suu Kyi remains in detention at an unknown location, protesters have been taking to the streets.

In addition to imposing curfews and other restrictions, security forces have used water cannon, rubber bullets and live ammunition to try to disperse the demonstrators, according to news reports.

“It is critical to find an urgent solution to this crisis”, underscored the Secretary-General.

He reiterated an imperative appeal to the military to refrain from violence and repression and upheld that “those responsible for the serious human rights violations committed in Myanmar must be held accountable”.

In the aftermath of another day of widespread bloodshed by the Myanmar military on March 28, two senior UN officials also have strongly denounced “systematic” attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar and flagged that the international community has a responsibility to protect the people from atrocities.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in a joint statement on March 28 warned of a heightened risk of atrocity crimes in Myanmar, following another day of widespread bloodshed by the Myanmar military.

The two senior UN officials strongly condemned the Myanmar military’s widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other serious violations of human rights since it seized power.

Thousands of people have also been arbitrarily arrested—many subjected to enforced disappearance. March 27 witnessed the bloodiest day since the demonstrations against the coup began, with security forces killing at least 107—including 7—according to multiple credible reports, with the number of deaths expected to rise as reports are confirmed. Hundreds more were wounded and detained during these seemingly coordinated attacks in over 40 locations throughout the country, the joint statement emphasised.

Both Bachelet and Nderitu called on the military to immediately stop killing the very people it has the duty to serve and protect.

“The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police—who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children—must be halted immediately”, they said in a joint statement.

Earlier on March 24, Amnesty International’s Representative to the UN in Geneva, Hilary Power, greeted the adoption of a resolution on Myanmar by consensus at the UN Human Rights Council. “Speaking with one voice …, the UN Human Rights Council has sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Myanmar military that they must halt their violations, and to businesses with ties to military-owned companies in Myanmar that they must end those partnerships”.

As the military further escalates its all-out assault, the people of Myanmar cannot wait another day for justice, noted Ms Power.

“UN member states have tasked the UN human rights office to investigate the economic interests and business ties of the Myanmar military, and report back to the Human Rights Council with a comprehensive report and recommendations,” she said.

“Now it remains for the UN Security Council to move beyond statements of concern and take the long-overdue action needed to halt violations and hold perpetrators to account. We urge all members of the Security Council to set aside politics and stand with the people of Myanmar—and not the generals ordering daily killing sprees against peaceful protesters, bystanders and political opponents,” Amnesty’s representative to the UN in Geneva said.

She called on the Security Council to urgently refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and impose, without further delay, a comprehensive global arms embargo and targeted financial sanctions on senior military officials responsible for atrocity crimes.

The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar by consensus on March 24. In September 2019, the former Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar presented a detailed report to the Council on the economic interests of the Myanmar military, in which they identified businesses with commercial ties to the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEHL and MEC).

The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council recalled the recommendation made by the FFM that no company active in Myanmar or with business links to Myanmar should do business with the Tatmadaw or one of their business entities, until and unless those businesses are restructured and transformed. 

The resolution also mandates the UN human rights office to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the FFM’s 2019 report on the economic interests of the military, and to report back to the Human Rights Council on a regular basis and to deliver a comprehensive written report in September 2022.

The resolution renews the important mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, and puts in place more comprehensive and regular monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation on the ground, by the Special Rapporteur and the UN human rights office. Both actors have been asked to keep the Human Rights Council and “other United Nations bodies,” including the Security Council, updated.

Amnesty International’s Military Ltd. report, published in September 2020, demonstrates how a number of the international and local companies identified in the FFM’s report have been linked to the financing of Myanmar’s military units implicated in crimes under international law. Since then, the Myanmar military (individual members and units of which are shareholders of MEHL) has been involved in the commission of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law following the military coup on February 1, 2021.

Many of the companies that Amnesty International and the FFM urged to end business ties with MEHL have not yet done so, including South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Chinese Wanbao Mining, which continue to operate in Myanmar in partnership with the military. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 March 2021]

Photo: People across ethnic and religious divides hold vigil in Yangon, Myanmar. Unsplash/Zinko Hein. Source: UN.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to share, remix, tweak and build upon.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top