National Security This Week at the United Nations (Feb 26-March 5)

U.N. Rapporteur on Myanmar Urges Security Council Action

Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, called yesterday for the Security Council, which met today, to “take decisive and unified action against the military junta.” In his March 4 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, he said action should include “targeted sanctions, an arms embargo, and a referral to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute atrocities” committed since the Feb. 1 coup and previously.  U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield had said on March 1 that she hopes to push for “intense discussions” on Myanmar in the Security Council.

Special Envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener had strongly condemned the military coup at an Informal General Assembly meeting on Feb. 26, calling on the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime.” At today’s Security Council meeting, she said hope for U.N. action is “waning fast.”

Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N., Kyaw Moe Tun, announced on Feb. 26 that he was not representing the military, but rather the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that that won 82 percent of the vote during the November election. His voice breaking, he called on member States “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military.” He said he would join those fighting for “a government which is of the people, by the people, and for the people” and gave the three-fingered salute that has become the symbol of the pro-democracy protesters. The junta fired him the next day and said it replaced him, but a U.N. official stated it is up to member States to determine who is recognized as a country’s representative.

Violence against protesters continued throughout the week, with dozens killed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the attacks, calling for an immediate end to the use of force.

ICC Opens Investigation into Crimes Committed in Occupied Palestinian Territory; U.N. Special Rapporteurs Condemn Destruction of Palestinian Village

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor opened an investigation on March 3 regarding crimes committed since June 13, 2014, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. After a five-year investigation, the Prosecutor determined that the statutory criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute had been met as there was “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank.”

On March 2, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on adequate housing called on the government of Israel to “end its efforts to demolish the Palestinian village of Humsa – Al Bqai-a.” They rejected Israel’s justifications and raised concerns over forced displacements, noting that such displacements would not be acceptable under either international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

COVAX Delivers Vaccine as COVID-19 Cases Increase

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on March 1 that the world COVID-19 infection rate for the previous week increased for the first time in seven weeks, likely due to the emergence of variants and relaxation of public-health measures.

Ghana, Cote d-Ivoire, Sudan, and Rwanda received hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine through  COVAX, a WHO program designed for equitable global vaccine distribution

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on Feb. 26 calling for ceasefires in places where conflict is inhibiting the vaccination effort. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged additional steps, such as waiving intellectual property rights to speed up vaccine production.

Human Rights Commissioner Bachelet Cites Abuses in More than 50 Countries

U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet identified abuses in more than 50 countries, as she presented her update for the Human Rights Council’s ongoing 46th session. She noted the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized the importance of public participation and transparency for upholding human rights.

The council’s 46th session began on Feb. 22 and runs to March 23. This past week, the council considered reports and oral updates on recent human rights developments, rights of children, social and cultural rights, the environment, counterterrorism, and torture.

Special Rapporteur Lawlor Outlines Impunity for Attacks on Human Rights Defenders

At least 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 35 countries in 2019, and authorities are failing in their obligations to prevent such attacks even though many of the activists had received death threats, Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, told the Human Rights Council in her latest report March 5. “The pattern of killings is widespread, with human rights defenders having been killed in almost one third of UN Member States since 2015,” she said.

Ethiopia Should Grant Access to Tigray for Investigation of Abuses, Bachelet Says

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the government of Ethiopia to “grant my Office and other independent monitors access to the Tigray region, with a view to establishing the facts and contributing to accountability.”  The office has received information, with some corroboration in certain instances, on alleged killings of protesters by security forces, rapes in eastern Tigray, and indiscriminate shelling, among other potential violations, Bachelet said. “A preliminary analysis of the information received indicates that serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed by multiple actors in the conflict,” she said in a statement.

Nigerian Schoolgirls Kidnapped and Released Days Later

Secretary-General António Guterres and the U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, condemned the Feb. 26 kidnapping of more than 300 girls from a Nigerian school and called for their immediate and safe release. The abducted girls were released March 2 in relatively safe condition.

At Least 20 Migrants Drown in Crossing from Djibouti to Yemen

At least 20 people drowned after smugglers threw migrants overboard about 30 minutes into a crossing from Djibouti to Yemen, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration. Survivors are receiving medical treatment. It was the third incident in the Gulf of Aden in the last six months, UN News reported, citing IOM. The number of people making the journey dropped to about 37,500 in 2020, from 138,000 a year earlier, likely due to the pandemic, according to IOM, which fears a potential increase this year if coronavirus infections subside.

U.N. Rights Experts Call for Reforms and End to Systemic Racism in the United States

U.N. experts appointed by the Human Rights Council called for reforms in the United States to end systemic racism in policing, revise laws concerning the use of force policies, and end the militarization of the police. U.N. experts also called for reforms in “Cancer Alley” Louisiana, labeling the polluting petrochemical plants in the area a form of “environmental racism” that “poses serious and disproportionate threats to…[the] largely African American residents.”

U.N. Experts Release Report on Attack Against Navalny, as U.S. and EU Announce Sanctions on Russia

U.N. human rights experts stated on March 1 that an investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, remains a priority and noted that evidence from toxicology reports indicate the Russian government perpetrated the poisoning. The experts concluded: “We believe that poisoning Mr. Navalny with Novichok might have been deliberately carried out to send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticize and oppose the Government. Novichok was precisely chosen to cause fear.” The U.S. and E.U. announced sanctions against Russia on March 2 in response to the poisoning, arrest, and detention of Navalny.

Saudi Ambassador to U.N. Rejects U.S. Khashoggi Report

The Saudi U.N. ambassador on March 1 rejected a U.S. report, made public on Feb. 26, that found the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been “approved” by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The ambassador argued that the report “does not rise anywhere close to proving the accusation beyond reasonable doubt.”

Image: BANGKOK, THAILAND – MARCH 04: A Myanmar man cries during a vigil for anti-coup protesters who have been killed in Myanmar on March 04, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand. His sign reads “Hello UN, how many dead bodies needed to take action against Myanmar army’s killing?” Myanmar nationals gathered outside of the United Nations Headquarters in Bangkok to call for UN action against the military and to hold a vigil in honor of protesters who have been killed during clashes with the Myanmar military following the coup on February 1st. Wednesday marked the deadliest day since the coup, as 38 anti-coup protesters were killed throughout Myanmar. (Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

 

About the Author(s)

Sruthi Venkatachalam

Sruthi is a Student Staff Editor at Just Security and a JD student at Yale Law School.