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BRIEFING NOTES - (1) Occupied Palestinian Territory; (2) Myanmar; (3) Algeria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

Location: Geneva

Date: 11 May 2021

Subject: (1) Occupied Palestinian Territory

(2) Myanmar

(3) Algeria

1) Occupied Palestinian Territory

We are deeply concerned at the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel in the past days.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, 915 Palestinians were injured between 7 and 10 May in East Jerusalem, and over 200 in the West Bank, most by Israeli security forces. Reportedly one Palestinian with Israeli citizenship has been killed in Israel. As of 10 May approximately 20 Israelis, the majority of whom were members of security forces, had reportedly been injured as well. We condemn all violence and all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations.

Israeli Security Forces must allow and ensure the exercise of the right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly. No force should be used against those exercising their rights peacefully. When use of force is necessary, it should comply fully with international human rights standards. This includes the prohibition of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force. This has not been the case in the past days. We are particularly concerned about the impact on children and reiterate the call by UNICEF for children to be protected from violence and kept out of harm’s way at all times. Detained children should be released.

Palestinian armed groups have launched some 250 rockets towards Israel in the past 24 hours, reportedly injuring at least 17 Israeli civilians. The use of indiscriminate weapons, such as the rockets being fired into Israel, is strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law and must stop immediately.

Israeli Defense Forces have carried out airstrikes into Gaza. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, 24 Palestinians, including nine children and one woman, have been killed and 103 injured so far. Israel must respect international humanitarian law, in particular the cardinal principles on the conduct of hostilities, namely distinction, proportionality and precautions. Any attack, including airstrikes, should be directed solely at military objectives and all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid civilian deaths and injury and damage to civilian objects.

Israel must also refrain from punitive measures, such as additional closures and restrictions, that punish the entire civilian population of Gaza.

We call for re-doubling of efforts to calm down the situation and avoid any further violence.

2) Myanmar

More than 100 days after the coup in Myanmar, the military authorities are showing no sign of letting up in their brutal crackdown on opponents in a bid to consolidate their hold on power. At the same time, there is no weakening of the resolve of the civil disobedience movement and other facets of opposition to the coup leaders.

As of 10 May, credible sources indicate that the security forces, using unnecessary, disproportionate and lethal force to suppress demonstrations and other forms of public participation, have killed at least 782 individuals since the coup on 1 February. While much of the world’s attention has been on the number of peaceful protesters and bystanders killed by the security forces, the authorities continue to commit other gross human rights violations against the people of Myanmar.

There are daily raids on private homes and offices, and more than 3,740 people are currently in detention. We are deeply alarmed that the whereabouts and fate of hundreds of these individuals are unknown. These are situations that may amount to enforced disappearances.

Of those in custody, the vast majority have not been brought before a judge, while most of the 86 people prosecuted thus far have been tried in secret, with limited or no access to any form of legal counsel. Military tribunals and courts martial have been established in several townships in which martial law was declared. At least 25 individuals have received the death sentence to date – some 20 of whom were tried in absentia.

Over the past month, the military leadership has issued over 1,561 arrest warrants targeting civil society activists, trade unionists, journalists, academics, public personalities and online voices, so driving the vast majority of them underground. To intensify pressure, the military authorities have resorted to taking relatives of wanted people into custody to force them to turn themselves in to the police.

The military authorities are also stepping up their efforts to pressure civil servants back to work. In recent weeks, the coup leadership has dismissed, removed, or suspended more than 3,000 civil servants – nearly 70 per cent of those targeted have been women. Those suspended include 990 university professors, researchers and assistants who in the last few days have been suspended for failing to report to work. There are reports that up to 11,000 more educational workers were suspended on Monday.

We are also deeply concerned about the situation of people fleeing persecution, especially human rights defenders and journalists.

As the armed conflicts between the Tatmadaw and some of the ethnic armed organizations, particularly in Kachin and Kayin states, have intensified, people seeking protection are being forced to consider seeking safety outside the country. When they do so, they should receive such protection and support from Myanmar’s neighbours.

It is clear that there needs to be greater international involvement to prevent the human rights situation in Myanmar from deteriorating further. Despite the five-point plan agreed at the ASEAN leaders’ meeting on 24 April, the Myanmar military leadership has shown no sign of abiding by it. We call on ASEAN to react quickly and to intensify its actions to ensure the military keeps to these commitments and to hold them accountable for failing to do so.

3) Algeria

We are increasingly concerned about the situation in Algeria where the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs continue to be under attack.

Since the resumption of demonstrations in the streets of Algeria on 13 February 2021 – after a year of protests held online by the Hirak movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic – we have received sustained reports of unnecessary and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters, as well as continuing arrests.

On four occasions in April and May, student marches were prevented. Authorities have continued to block access to meeting points for demonstrations; hundreds of protesters or anyone alleged by security forces to be a demonstrator are being arbitrarily arrested. Some protestors were reportedly detained and later released after being forced to sign a document promising to cease participating in protests.

Currently, around 70 people are still reportedly detained for exercising their legitimate human rights. Some of them are serving lengthy sentences while others are in pre-trial detention. New allegations of physical and sexual violence in detention have also been surfacing in recent days.

Over the past two months, activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens peacefully expressing dissent have continued to face criminal prosecution. Hirak activists continue to be prosecuted on the basis of overly broad laws even after a presidential pardon was announced in February this year.

We urge the Algerian authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful demonstrations and to halt arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly. We also call on Algerian authorities to fulfil the presidential pardon granted to people participating in the Hirak movement, and to cease all forms of harassment and intimidation against them.

We reiterate our call on the authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations, to hold accountable those responsible, and to ensure that victims have access to redress.

We also urge authorities to review the Penal Code and other repressive legislation, notably Law 12-06 on associations and Law 91-19 on public meetings and demonstrations, to bring them into line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, both of which have been ratified by Algeria.

ENDS

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