Myanmar: Ongoing mass detentions and surveillance of civil society

Myanmar: Ongoing mass detentions and surveillance of civil society - Protection

Photo by Saw Wunna

Summary

ARTICLE 19 made this statement during the oral update of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar at the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 thanks the Special Rapporteur for his update on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar. It has now been seven months since the military coup, and the situation for civil society remains in a critical state.  

The military regime has resorted to widespread arrests as a tactic to chill dissent, with fears heightened by consistent reports of ill-treatment and torture in detention. Thus far, the military has arrested, charged, or sentenced more than 5,800 people in the country, including prominent civil society activists. Those detained have reported beatings, sleep deprivation, and withholding of food and water.

In order to suppress critical reporting of military abuses and coverage of protests, the military has targeted journalists and media workers with arrests and detention. At least 101 journalists and media workers have been arrested since the coup, with 51 of them still in detention. At the same time, the military has raided media houses, with security forces confiscating vital documents and equipment, forcing many media workers into hiding or exile.

Where the military authorities have been unable to arrest or detain targeted individuals, they have increasingly resorted to harassing their family members.

This climate of fear engulfing civil society has only been exacerbated by the military regime’s widespread use of surveillance, both online and offline. The military’s ability to track civil society and journalists has been facilitated through the use of privately-developed surveillance tools amid poor controls for export, sale, transfer or use of such technologies worldwide.

ARTICLE 19 urges the military authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all civil society actors detained in connection with their work and cease the ill-treatment and torture of those in detention.

We urge all States to vocally demand the military authorities to end their crimes under international law immediately. At the same time, we encourage States to provide relocation opportunities for civil society actors and journalists at risk of human rights violations and to respect the principle of non-refoulement for those within their borders.

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