WEEKLY NEWSLETTER | LEGIT BY INTERNATIONALISM

Updated: Jul 21

PREFACE

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With Regards,

Aryakumari Sailendraja

Chief Managing Editor,

Legit by Internationalism


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‘WHY ANNEXATION NOW? - ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU


Israel,

02 July 2020

Netanyahu declared that “the time is ripe for the country to permanently seize Palestinian territory by annexing swathes of the West Bank. In the blueprint of U.S., “vision for peace” largely backing up Netanyahu’s expansionist ambitions. ‘Annexation’ can summon up images of a seemingly bygone colonial era, where states fought for the spoils of war. Nevertheless, annexation had its existence in the modern era. Netanyahu has made promises in the past year to annex, or “apply sovereignty”, to different areas of the West Bank, a chunk of land Israel captured from Jordan in 1967.

The reason for annexing now is that the Ultranationalists in Israel see Trump’s presidency as a rare opportunity to carry out measures that were long considered taboo in Washington. Going against decades of US foreign policy, Trump has slashed aid to Palestinians, cut diplomatic ties and declared the city of Jerusalem – part of which Palestinians claim – as Israel’s capital. With Trump’s White House tenancy potentially due to expire in a November election, much of the far-right in Israel believes now is the time for action.

As provided the coalition between Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz, the government can bring “annexation” plans to debate and approval of the cabinet and Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, starting 1 July 2020. And they framed 10 things to know about “annexation”.

GREEN SIGNAL IN MADHYA PRADESH FOR CABINET EXPANSION


Bhopal,

02 July 2020

After nearly 3 months, Shivraj Singh Chouhan captured full-fledged cabinet on Thursday, after he took as a charge on March 23 2020. 28 Ministers took oath along with the former Congress MLAs, Bisahulal Sahu, Endal Singh Kasana, Hardeep Dang and Ranveer Jatav to join the BJP government at Raj Bhawan in Bhopal. Among the 28 Ministers, there are 20 Cabinet ministers and 8 Ministers of State. The delay was due to corona lockdown and the Rajya Sabha election

When the Chouhan took charge as Chief Minister, they didn’t form the cabinet as there were fierce disagreements for the allocation between the BJP and the former Congressmen. Then, around mid-April, 5 Ministers took charge in the Cabinet, even this happened after negotiating with Jyotiraditya Scindia.

RUSSIAN BOUNTIES ON U.S SOLDIERS IN AFGHANISTAN FIT RIGHT INTO PUTIN’s PLAYBOOK


Britain,

02 July 2020

The New York Times reported that U.S. forces had found massive amounts of cash during raids in Afghanistan, and ultimately came to the conclusion that Russia has been offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American and coalition troops. Hence, the attention was turned on President Donald Trump for lack of action in response. Nevertheless, both Russia and the Taliban, like Trump have sought to downplay or deny the reports.

“I am aware of the intelligence,” says Wallace to parliamentary defence sub-committee. “I can't comment on intelligence matters other than to say we take lots of measures to defend and make sure our soldiers, men and women of our armed forces when they are deployed, are kept safe." Eventually, the evidence is increasing with new reports every day. Now there is a proof of large financial transfer disclosed from the intercepted electronic data from Russia to agents who connected its military intelligence, the GRU, with the Taliban. Then the White House argued on Monday stating that there was “no consensus” amidst intelligence agencies about their veracity.

SPECIAL FORCE UNITS ARE DEPLOYED BY INDIA IN LADAKH AMID MILITARY STANDOFF WITH CHINA


New Delhi

02 July 2020

India and China are currently embroiled in a military confrontation at eastern Ladakh along the LAC(Line of Actual Control). Tensions have been high after a violent face-off between Indian Army soldiers and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the Galwan Valley resulted in casualties on both sides.

Special Forces Units were already deployed in the eastern parts of Ladakh along with forward positions and learned of their tasks, if and when necessary. These units have played a crucial role in the 2017 surgical strike against terror camps based in Pakistan.

India has more than 12 regiments of Special Forces which train and develop their specializations on different terrains. Troops have been adequately informed of the roles they might be expected to play in the event of escalating hostility with China.

DDMA FORMS 12 MEMBER PANEL TO SUGGEST MEASURES TO HELP PEOPLE, BUSINESSES DURING COVID-19 CRISIS IN DELHI

New Delhi

02 July 2020

On Thursday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) formed a 12-member committee to propose measures to help people and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis period. The committee would recommend detailed measures on how to deal with the damages inflicted to the economy of Delhi by the COVID-19 crisis. It will also carry out a thorough review and make recommendations on the steps to be taken by government agencies, autonomous bodies, local bodies and MCDs to support citizens and businesses in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This committee will be headed by Jasmine Shah, vice-chairperson of DDC. DDMA in its order said – “The situation of COVID-19 in Delhi has been evaluated and, in the view of present situations, it has been agreed to preserve the status quo in NCT Delhi in the broader public interest, except by changing the timing of the night curfew on the movement of individuals from 9 pm to 5 am instead of 10 pm to 5 am. It also added that DDMA had extended the lockdown in containment zones by order dated 30 June and also indicated prohibited and permitted activities in NCT Delhi.

The estimated number of cases in capital comprises 27,007 active cases, 59,992 cured cases and 2,803 deaths.

CHINA: NATIONAL SECURITY LAW MUST NOT BECOME A WEAPON FEAR

China

June 30, 2020

The national security law was passed on 30th June, 2020 and is supposed to be signed by the Chinese president Xi Jinping, following which it will be classified in Annex- III of the Hong Kong’s Mini Constitution. The law will also permit the central government of Beijing and the government of Hong Kong to set up a national security official in the town.

The pace and secrecy in which China has forced through this legislation is exacerbating the concern that Beijing calculated a tool of repression to be used against government opponents, including those who are merely expressing their views or protesting peacefully. China's hesitancy to enact this law soon is also an alarming warning for the legislative elections to be held in Hong Kong in September, with the possibility that security legislation could be used against pro-democracy candidates. The fact that this law has now been passed by the Chinese government without the people of Hong Kong being able to see it tells you a lot about their motives. Their goal is to control Hong Kong through fear from this point forward.

In enforcing this law, the Hong Kong officials must now strictly and provably comply with their own human rights obligations and it is up to the international community to keep them accountable. At this crucial time for Hong Kong, it is essential that national security law is not used to suppress human rights and the rights that separate the city from mainland China.

AFTER INDIA BANS CHINESE APPS, GROWING APPEAL IN THE US FOR SIMILAR ACTION


New Delhi

01 July 2020

On Monday, India banned 59 apps with Chinese roots, including TikTok and UC Browser, claiming them to be a threat to sovereignty, integrity and security of the nation. The ban comes against the backdrop of India’s stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the Chinese troops. This action has been noted in the US by many including some prominent lawmakers, urging the American Government to follow suit claiming TikTok to be a major security threat to the nation.

Last week Robert O’Brien (US National Security Advisor) said that the Chinese Government was using the app for its own purposes. There is a minimum of two pending in the US Congress to ban federal government officials from using said app on their cell phones, including the legislation introduced by Republican Senator Joshua David Hawley to ban federal employees to download the app on government-issued devices.

Clyde Wallace, the Deputy Assistant of Cyber Division at the FBI said that TikTok is a classic example of an application where the average citizen doesn’t understand the implications of its usage and the kind of data that flows from it like it is controlled by a state-sponsored actor. In his statement on Tuesday, Nikhil Gandhi, TikTok India Head said that the company has not shared any information of its 200 million subscribers in the country with any foreign government including that of China.

CORONAVIRUS MUTATION HAS TAKEN OVER THE WORLD. SCIENTIST EXPLORE WHY?


Washington

30 June 2020

When the Coronavirus first hit Chicago in January, it bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China. But upon further examination of the local samples by Egon Ozer, a mutation was found. By May, this mutant was found in 95% of the genomes sequenced. This mutation was placed at a significant location as the switch took place in the genome coding the “spike protein” giving the virus its crownlike profile. Recently though, this mutant hasn’t just dominated Chicago, but has taken over the world.

At least four studies suggest that this mutation makes the virus more contagious not necessarily making its victims sicker. Other explanations to the G variant dominance include biases in the location of data collection and the timing giving the virus an early foothold in the susceptible population. SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) is incapable to live or reproduce on its own, needing the biological machinery of the human cell to make thousands of itself. It leaves in its trail damaged tissues and triggers catastrophic immune system responses in some. The replication process itself though is very messy, frequently making mistakes also called mutations. Although a majority of these mutations don’t seem to have an effect on the behaviour of the virus.

The mutation's success might also be a ‘founder effect’, said Pardis sabeti (Computational Biologist Harvard University) “Arriving in a place like Northern Italy - where the vast majority of sequenced infections are caused by the G variant - it found easy purchase in an older and largely unprepared population, which then unwittingly spread it far and wide.” With further statistical analysis or controlled experimentation on the animal population, scientists might be able to further rule out these alternative explanations.

OPPOSITION SLAMS CENTRE’s BID TO PRIVATISE PASSENGER TRAINS


New Delhi

02 July 2020

Soon after the Indian railways request for qualifications of private participation in passenger train operations, objections were raised by several leaders in the opposition. The Government was asked to rethink on this decision. The National Transporter on Wednesday revealed that there have been requests for 109 pairs or routes through 151 modern trains. The project he said would entail a private investment of 30,000 crore and allow them to operate passenger trains.

The opposition claimed that the move was against the foundation of a self-reliant India and warned of serious repercussions of privatization of Railways. Rahul Gandhi in his tweet stated that the Railways is the lifeline of the poor and the Centre is taking that away from them. “The Centre can take away whatever they want. But they must remember that people will give them a strong reply,”. Congress spokesman and MP Manu Singhvi stated that the Indian Railways is the world’s 7th largest employer. “Now, with this scale, are you decimating and destroying value for India, for the nation, for India’s ‘Shaan, Baan, Aan’ by minimising value or it is your object to be at least minimising, it is not maximising.”

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) said, “The private sector utilising the network established over centuries with all the required infrastructure will run passenger trains making super-profits. The Indian Railways remains as the most important network uniting our country and providing public transportation for crores of our people. The livelihood of crores of our people are dependent on the railways. Such privatisation undermines the basis of India’s self-reliant economy,”

GOVERNMENT CONSTITUTES NATIONAL COMPLIANCE PLATFORM AGAINST DOPING IN SPORT

New Delhi

02 July 2020

The government is set to constitute a ‘National Compliance Platform against Doping in Sport’ under the chairmanship of Sports Secretary in line with the International Convention adopted by the UNESCO General Conference. The panel will include Indian Olympic Association President and National Anti-Doping Agency Director-General as their members. The NADA DG will be the member secretary of the 10 member panel. The other members also include representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Finance, External Affairs, Human Resource Development, Health, Law and Justice among the others.

In an office memorandum which was dated on 27th June 2020, the sports ministry requested the ministries/departments to nominate their own representatives. India, being a signatory to the International Convention against Doping in Sport which was adopted in 33rd UNESCO General Conference in the year of 2005. The main purpose of the Convention was to promote the prevention of and to fight against doping in sport, with a need of elimination.

‘In order to code the compliant with the International Convention, it was decided with the approval of competent authority to constitute a National Compliance Platform against Doping in Sport under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Sports) and comprising senior officers from the various ministries/departments, says the reports.


(2nd Week)

USA WITHDRAWAL FROM WHO MAY STRIKE DISTRESS TO GLOBAL HEALTH

United States of America

8 July 2020

United State of America (US) being the highest hit country by the consequences of Coronavirus widespread reached nearly 2.8 million cases and 0.13 million deaths have notified United State about its intention to withdraw from World Health Organization (WHO). On 29th May, Donald Trump, the President of the US has announced his decision to abruptly stop the funding and pull out of the global body. This is the result of the unfortunate hike of CoVID -19 cases is understood to the mismanagement of the global health body due to being china centric on many occasions. There is an accusation on WHO that it lacks independence and was ineffective to respond to the health crisis being influenced by China.

Although the decision is lacking the approval of Congress or Court which might reverse the same, Sanhita Ambast, Amnesty International’s Advisor on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights have stated it to be reckless attempt amidst the worldwide crisis. The decision of withdrawal may negatively impact a mechanism to control the crisis in the nation as well as the world. The global health will get defeated and there will be no assurance of access to health to all. Furthermore WHO is the only primary body to mandate support to health worldwide and the US being the highest contributor may affect the other initiated programs unevenly as it provided nearly $450 million annually.

Moreover, Joe Biden, a Democratic challenger assures to revoke if in next term elected as a president. WHO has restricted power to ensure the compliance of member nations. WHO may get further weakened by losing out health intelligence to get control over international health in the future.

THE NEW GOVERNMENT IN MALAYSIA MUST CREATE HUMAN RIGHTS REFORMS AND POLICE REFORMS

Malaysia

6th July 2020

From the background, the condition of police in Malaysia namely Royal Malaysian Police lacks discipline and inadequate to address serious misconduct such as abuse of power, torture, or death in custody seeking a major change from a new government. Amnesty international being a global body known for movements to ensure human rights to all stated that Malaysia may seize the fifteen years old envisioned historic change to implement police reform by establishing the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

Rachel Chhota- Howard, the Malaysian researcher at amnesty international having glimpse over condition said that from several years police abuse conditions have observed no change but the new government may grab the opportunity to establish IPCMC.

IPCMC has undergone refinement and 24 and 12 amendments by Parliament and special select committee respectively. The Malaysian government is called to an urgency to prevent police abuse in consequence of the upcoming decade getting scrutiny on the same violence from Hong Kong. The ruined reputation of the present police system is a threat to human rights over the years as researched by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. Further Amnesty International has also recommended certain measures to ensure human rights conditions such as to properly examine IPCMC and its investigatory body that it can ensure public trust by the proper functioning and rectifying the year-long abuse. In order to attain the aforesaid, Amnesty International calls the nation to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and many other cruel, inhumane, and degrading systems. New leadership is equally called for reform to protect human rights.

In order to ensure human rights, the Malaysian governments also require to make the sedition act comply with the international mandate as including the abolition of the death penalty. As overlooking the sedition act it is found to provoke criminalization which is providing shield by the constitution. Those accused proved guilty in the said matter were sent to jail for three years or fined up to USD 1570 or both. The same is not in compliance with an international mandate as it violates rights to freedom of expression which is safeguarded by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which is secured by Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution. Further in the year 2018, the government has announced to abolish the death penalty although it continued to observe. Now after the establishment of a special committee the Amnesty International recommended several guidelines to line up the several violations of the human right to guarantee people a secure life.

KULBHUSHAN JADHAV CASE SHOULD MOVE TO THE ICJ BY GOVERNMENT: CONGRESS

New Delhi

9th July 2020

Congress urges to create international pressure in the alleged espionage case by the Indian government. In the case of Kulbhusan Jadhav's arrest by the Pakistani security force in March 2016 and awarded death sentence in 2017 for spying and terrorism, now Islamabad spokes that Jadhav himself refused to file review of death sentence and Indian Government wants to go ahead with the mercy petition refusing review. It is called the brazen attempt of the Pakistani government to dissolve the remedy available in the case, said by Anurag Shrivastava, Spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs in India. Jadhav has being coerced for denial of review in his death sentence as claimed by India.

Last year the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has called Pakistan to review as there are no clear pieces of evidence upon which the death penalty has relied upon. Pakistan has never tried the case fairly and also wants to dissolute the appeal process. The voice which is said to be denying the appeal in name of the victim is undoubtedly sabotage of the Pakistani government. Thus the congress spokes that the Indian government should seek justice from ICJ to secure the rights of Kulbhushan Jadhav. Pakistan is violating the international rulings and creating a mirage of the compliance of mandate.

PAKISTAN: PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS FOR HINDUS

Pakistan

7th July 2020

Pakistan government constructing a temple in Islamabad. The site of the Shri Krishna Mandir (temple) complex, will include a crematorium, accommodation for visitors, a community hall and a parking space spread across an area of 4 canals (2,023sq meters).

But despite giving such an effort by the Pakistan government, some people protesting against the construction of a temple. On Tuesday, Amnesty International said that: “Pakistan’s authorities must protect the right to freedom of religion and belief for the country’s beleaguered Hindu community, including the construction of temples to exercise that right”

“I want to warn our people that anyone in Pakistan targeting our non-Muslim citizens or their places of worship will be dealt with strictly. Our minorities are equal citizens of the country.” Prime Minister Imran Khan

“The Pakistani authorities must clearly and publicly condemn such acts instead of giving into them. Every reported act of violence against minorities must be promptly investigated and those responsible must be brought to justice. A recurrence can only be prevented if adequate measures are taken” said Omar Waraich.

INDIA HAS LOWEST CASES, DEATHS PER MILLION POPULATION: HARSH VARDHAN

New Delhi

9th July 2020

The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that India has lowest death rate compared to the global average per million (538) and deaths per million (15) compared to the global average of 1,453 and 68.7, respectively, on Thursday after chairing the 18th meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on coronavirus (COVID-19).

He also said that “as we move forward, our focus shall be on the management of COVID-19 through strict containment measures and surveillance; utilizing full testing capacity; focusing on monitoring of co-morbid and elderly population; predicting emerging hotspots by leveraging digital tools such as Aarogya Setu; ensuring seamless patient admission processes; focusing on infrastructure preparedness (critical care beds, oxygen, ventilators and logistics).” He pointed out that “along with States/UTs, our aim is to reduce and keep the Case Fatality Rate low by early identification and effective clinical management”.

“The major concern areas in the country were highlighted and the measures to be taken were listed including timely clinical management along with testing and surveillance in the high-risk population with co-morbidities to reduce the Case Fatality Ratio” Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control.

CENTRAL DRUG AGENCY WARNS OF BLACK MARKETING OF COVID-19 DRUG REMDESIVIR

India

8th July 2020

On Monday drug manufacturer Mylan NV said it would launch a generic version of Remdesivir, originally developed by the US-based Gilead Sciences Inc., in India. The Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) has raised concerns over black marketing and profiteering of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug prescribed for treatment of suspected or severe lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19. The DGCI has written to all states and union territories asking them to keep "strict vigil" and prevent the sale of the drug above MRP.

Immediate enforcement is needed to stop the sale of COVID-19 drug Remdesivir above MRP (maximum retail price)," the agency said Gilead, which has priced Remdesivir at $2,340 per patient for wealthier nations, has agreed to send nearly all of its supply to the US over the next three months, according to Reuters, raising concerns about its availability elsewhere.

India has reported over seven lakh novel coronavirus cases so far, with more than 20,000 deaths linked to the virus. The growth in new infections is worryingly high, with more than 20,000 reported every day since July 3.

Meanwhile, the race is on to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. India's first vaccine candidate - Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN - is expected to begin Phase I clinical trials this month.

GOVERNMENT PANEL TO PROBE AGAINST 3 GANDHI FAMILY TRUSTS

New Delhi

08th July 2020

An inter-ministerial team has been set up by the government to coordinate a probe into the alleged violation of various laws like money laundering and foreign contributions by three Nehru-Gandhi family linked trusts, including the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF). A Home Ministry spokesperson said a special director in the Enforcement Directorate will head the team.

"MHA sets up inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA, Income Tax Act, FCRA etc by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust. Spl. Dir of ED will head the committee," a home ministry spokesperson tweeted. The Centre's move followed recent allegations by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the Congress and the Gandhi family claiming that China had funded the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

Last month, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, citing some documentary proof, sought an explanation from the Congress to explain why the Chinese Embassy donated about Rs 90 lakh to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. It is alleged that the Embassy of The People's Republic of China in India and the Government of the People's Republic of China are donors to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

A petition has also been filed before the Supreme Court to seek a probe into the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Congress and the Communist Party of China signed in 2008.

ARMY PERSONNEL TOLD TO DELETE FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND 87 OTHER APPS BY JULY 15

New Delhi,

July 09

The Indian Army has directed all its personnel to uninstall 89 apps, including major apps such as Facebook and Instagram, from their smartphones by July 15. Indian Army issued the order to stop the leak of sensitive information and also for security considerations, a military intelligence stated on Thursday. These apps also include the 59 Chinese apps which are banned by the government of India recently. The military has issued many prior directives on limiting the use of Facebook and WhatsApp for the official work. This order is way broader covering a variety of apps across domains like messaging, content sharing, web browsers, video hosting, gaming, e-commerce, dating, anti-virus, news, and music among others. There are several cases of personnel being virtually trapped on social media platforms, resulting in the sharing of sensitive and important information.

Responding to the ban by the Army, Truecaller stated that it was disappointing and saddening for them to learn that Truecaller was among the list of the apps which were being banned by the Indian armed forces for their personnel.

They Stated that: -

“We would like to reiterate that Truecaller remains safe to use, both for our citizens and for our esteemed armed forces personnel. We see no reason for Truecaller to be on this list and will investigate the matter further,” A Truecaller spokesperson said.

LEBANON: MILITARY AND SECURITY INSTITUTIONS MUST END HARASSMENT OF ACTIVISTS AND JOURNALISTS

Lebanon

6 July 2020

The Lebanese authorities should stop exploiting flawed defamation laws that are used to harass journalists and activists, related to the October protest movement, Amnesty International said in an exceedingly detailed statement issued today.

Since 17 October 2019, the organization reviewed 75 cases and located that a spread of security and military agencies – none of which are mandated to appear into problems with free speech – had summoned and interrogated dozens of people, some repeatedly, in relevant social media posts criticizing the authorities.

The organization is moving towards the Lebanese parliament to amend the vague and overly broad laws on defamation, libel, slander, blasphemy, insult, and incitement and produce them in line with the international standards.

“The Lebanese authorities, and the safety and military institutions, should immediately stop harassing journalists and activists who are simply exercising their right to freedom of speech. Individuals who were visible during the October protest movement are relentlessly summoned and questioned in what's a pattern of harassment,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's Middle East supervisor.

“Lebanon’s vague and overly broad defamation laws do not satisfy international standards and restrict people’s right to exercise their freedom of expression. Even speech that's considered offensive is protected under the correct to freedom of expression. Laws which are criminalizing defamation, whether of public figures or private individuals, should be treated as a matter for civil litigation, not Criminal Litigation.”

Under jurisprudence, Lebanon must respect and protect the proper to freedom of expression, whether or not such expression risks shocking, offending, or disturbing. The pattern of charging persons for criminal defamation, compounded by then failing to proceed to trial expeditiously, can have a chilling effect which will unduly restrict the exercise of freedom of expression of the person concerned et al., and could be a violation of the proper to exercise freedom of expression.

Amnesty International opposes laws prohibiting insult or disrespect of heads of state or public figures, the military or other public institutions or flags or symbols (such as lèse majesté and desacato laws)

MYANMAR: INDISCRIMINATE AIRSTRIKES KILL CIVILIANS AS RAKHINE CONFLICT WORSENS


Myanmar

8 July 2020

Amnesty International has collected new evidence showing that indiscriminate airstrikes by the Myanmar military have killed civilians, including children, amid worsening armed conflict in the country’s Rakhine and Chin States.

These attacks and other serious human rights violations by the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, are taking place in townships where internet has been cut off for more than a year. Residents have been in the dark over the threat from COVID-19 and deprived of information about humanitarian assistance. Rakhine State has been largely spared a major COVID-19 outbreak, although cases were on the rise in June.

“While Myanmar authorities were urging people to stay at home to help stop COVID-19, in Rakhine and Chin states its military was burning down homes and killing civilians in indiscriminate attacks that amount to war crimes,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.

“Despite mounting international pressure on the military’s operations in the area, including at the International Court of Justice, the shocking testimonies we have collected show just how deep impunity continues to run within Myanmar military ranks.”

In May and June 2020, Amnesty International remotely interviewed more than two dozen ethnic Rakhine and Chin people affected by military operations, including airstrikes and shelling; analyzed fresh satellite imagery of burned down villages; and verified video footage showing violations carried out by the Myanmar military.

The conflict has escalated since the 4 January 2019 attack by the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic Rakhine armed group, against several police posts in northern Rakhine State. The incident prompted a retaliatory order from the government to ‘crush’ the AA and marked a turning point in the escalation of the conflict, which has since displaced tens of thousands.

In recent days an additional 10,000 people fled their homes as a result of heavy fighting and warnings of advancing military operations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated.

Myanmar officially labelled the AA an unlawful organization on 23 March 2020. Fighting surged between March and May 2020, while Myanmar also grappled with its first COVID-19 cases. Over 30 civilians were killed or injured in May alone as a result of the conflict, according to the UN.

The victims are predominantly from Buddhist and some Christian ethnic minorities in Rakhine and Chin States, though media reports have also documented violations against Rohingya civilians.

‘The whole village saw the plane’

The Myanmar military’s airpower has inflicted enormous damage and human suffering. In Chin State, three people from a cluster of ethnic Chin villages called Meik Sar Wa in Paletwa Township described airstrikes which they said took place on 14 and 15 March 2020.

“The whole village saw the plane ... the sound was so loud,” one resident said, adding that the attack happened at around 11 am.

After hearing explosions, he ran to his father’s house and found his brother with a fatal stomach wound, as well as the body of his brother’s 16-year-old friend. He said his uncle, who was in a different house at the time, was also killed in the same airstrike.

Two people from another family in the same village cluster told Amnesty International that an airstrike killed nine people in their community, including a seven-year-old boy. “Our family is destroyed,” the boy’s father said.

An ethnic Rakhine farmer from Lel Hla village tract in Paletwa Township, Chin State, said fighting erupted around a nearby village called Human Chaung Wa on 7 April 2020. He said airstrikes killed seven and injured eight people, corroborating news reports of these incidents. After helping move dead bodies and injured people, he later witnessed two fighter jets launch another round of attacks closer to his own village and saw two columns of smoke rising from burned property.

He fled to the town of Paletwa the next day but airstrikes followed there as well.

Under customary international humanitarian law, an indiscriminate attack is a war crime if it leads to civilian deaths.


Detention, torture and other violations

Witness testimonies also show that Myanmar soldiers arbitrarily detained civilians in Rakhine State for perceived connections with the AA, sometimes resorting to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Two former residents of Mrauk U Township in Rakhine State told Amnesty International their family member was detained and tortured after Myanmar soldiers started shooting on 29 February 2020.

One of the women, the detained man’s wife, visited her husband in detention and said that he told her he had been tied up and beaten for four nights and five days. As a result of the beatings, he now has trouble breathing.

“He wasn’t given food or water…They kicked and hit him with rifles in the back and kicked his chest as well,” she said. “Before this, he was tall and big, but when I saw him … he was visibly thin.”

Soldiers held a knife to his throat and obtained a forced “confession” about his supposed links to the AA. He was charged under the Counter Terrorism Law, which has been increasingly used in recent months against journalists reporting on the conflict, and people perceived to be linked to the AA. The beating of detainees appears to be widespread. In May the military admitted its forces punched and kicked blindfolded detainees after a video of the disturbing incident went viral. Arbitrary detention was documented in several townships. A villager from Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township witnessed Myanmar soldiers arrest ten villagers, including her husband, on 16 March 2020. She told Amnesty International that soldiers punched, kicked and used guns to hit the detainees who resisted. These troops were said to be from the 55th Light Infantry Division, which Amnesty International has previously documented as carrying out violations in Rakhine State.

“Until now I have no news about my husband, and I'm devastated,” she said.

Myanmar soldiers also appear to regularly confiscate or destroy civilian property and commandeer monasteries as temporary bases. Amnesty International similarly documented the use and confiscation of civilian property by soldiers in Rakhine State and northern Shan State in 2019.

Residents said soldiers took rice, firewood, blankets and clothes, mobile phones and personal documents, gold bracelets and necklaces. Livestock was slaughtered or taken. Myanmar soldiers also knocked down doors, broke windows, and damaged small Buddhist shrines kept at home.

Amnesty International also documented incidents of the burning or destruction of villages in different townships in Rakhine and Chin States.

Satellite imagery of several conflict-affected villages shows widescale burning consistent with Myanmar military tactics. Both the military and the AA have blamed each other for the village burning.

Amnesty International was not able to document operations and abuses by the Arakan Army in the reporting period due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and limited access to conflict-affected areas and witnesses. However, reports suggest the Arakan Army has continued a pattern of abuses previously documented by Amnesty International. This includes endangering the lives of civilians during attacks, intimidation of local communities, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.


‘We’re becoming deaf and blind’: internet blackout during a pandemic

In June 2019, Myanmar authorities shut down the internet in nine conflict-affected townships in Rakhine and Chin States: Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Maungdaw, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Myebon, Ponnagyun, and Rathedaung in Rakhine State, as well as Paletwa in Chin State.

The shutdown was lifted in five townships in late August 2019, but reinstated in February 2020. At the time of writing, only Maungdaw has regained mobile internet access.

The government has said the internet blackout is necessary because the Arakan Army uses mobile internet to coordinate attacks against officials, plant anti-personnel mines, and incite hatred against the authorities. However, the blackout has limited access to information about COVID-19.

“There are only a few people who are aware of COVID-19 in the camps,” one relief worker told Amnesty International, estimating that about five percent understand the threat.

One displaced resident from Minbya Township said people had to learn about COVID-19 from television, print newspapers and illegal satellite dish connections.

“I’m worried because for war you can hide in the bush or nearby, but for the virus you can’t hide,” he said. “It’s like we’re becoming deaf and blind, and there’s nobody to report on what’s happening in Minbya.”

While serious violations by the Myanmar military continue, Amnesty International reiterates its call for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The reliance on airstrikes and internet blackouts may be new, but one constant is the military’s remorseless neglect for civilian life,” said Nicholas Bequelin.

“The atrocities have not stopped – in fact, the Myanmar military’s cruelty is only getting more sophisticated. This relentless pattern of violations is clearly a matter for the ICC. The Security Council must act.”



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