War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed every day with impunity by the military junta of Myanmar, Tom Andrews, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday.
"The people of Myanmar have been told that the world has a 'responsibility to protect,' victims of atrocity crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. As the military junta escalates its ruthless attacks on the people of Myanmar, the people of Myanmar see only endless expressions of concern from the international community, vague declarations that something should be done and a tedious, endless wait for a consensus to act," he said.
"For nearly 14 months, this body [the Human Rights Council] and other UN bodies have held meetings, issued statements and passed non-binding resolutions. Some member states have sanctioned individuals and entities linked to the Myanmar military junta."
For the people of Myanmar, these are welcome but insufficient steps to hold to account those responsible for relentless attacks on them that continue at this very moment, Andrews added.
He pointed to international action in light of the crisis in Ukraine as a standard by which its response to the crisis in Myanmar can be measured:
"Those responsible for the attacks against the people of Ukraine faced severe targeted sanctions personally, and their country's central bank was sanctioned even as foreign currency reserves were frozen," Andrews said.
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"In the space of four days, the member states of the United Nations summoned the political will to take tangible action."
Andrews said the military junta had murdered more than 1,600 civilians, detained more than 10,000, displaced more than half a million, destroyed more than 4,500 homes since the start of this year, spread armed conflict to regions previously at peace, and continued to systematically oppress and persecute the Rohingyas in Rakhine State.
"It is clear to me that the generals responsible for these escalating horrors are guilty of crimes against humanity, including the crimes of murder, enslavement, displacement and forcible transfer, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and sexual violence," Andrews said.
"I also believe that junta forces have committed war crimes including willful killing, destruction of property, torture and inhumane treatment, pillaging, rape, and displacement of civilians."
In a report to the Council, Andrews highlighted the cost of the junta's attacks on the people of Myanmar: "The military junta has driven Myanmar into a humanitarian catastrophe marked by a crumbling health infrastructure, half the nation falling into poverty, rampant inflation, and the cruel and outrageous blocking of the delivery of aid to those in desperate need."
"Children are being targeted and killed even as they run with their parents for safety. More than 100 have been murdered since the coup was launched last year. More than 100 children are gone, victims of the military junta's ruthlessness, brutality, and cowardice," the UN expert said.
"As members of this Human Rights Council, a body that can serve as the conscience of the United Nations, I hope that most, if not all, of you are horrified and outraged as well."
Andrews added that nearly one million children have missed routine immunisations, which alone could result in the deaths of 33,000 children this year.
He urged the Council and its member states to "stand with and for the people of Myanmar with not only words but even more importantly, with action" as for growing numbers of men, women and children in Myanmar, it is a matter of life and death.