Amnesty: Myanmar army ops target Rakhine state

             By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p>    <p>LONDON (AA) - Myanmar security forces have shelled villages and blocked civilians from accessing food and humanitarian assistance in western Rakhine state since early 2019, a rights groups said Monday.</p>    <p>“Security forces have also used vague and repressive laws to detain civilians in the area,” according to the Amnesty International report based on fresh evidence on ongoing military operations.</p>    <p>“These latest operations are yet another reminder that the Myanmar military operates without any regard for human rights,” Tirana Hassan, director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International said.</p>    <p>“Shelling inhabited villages and withholding food supplies are unjustifiable under any circumstances,” Hassan added.</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has “received reports that army divisions involved in atrocities against the Rohingya in August and September 2017 have been deployed to Rakhine State again in recent weeks.”</p>    <p>“Despite international condemnation of the Myanmar military’s atrocities, all evidence suggests that they are brazenly committing yet more serious abuses,” said Hassan.</p>    <p>According to the report, these violations came after a UN fact-finding mission called for the criminal investigation and prosecution of senior Myanmar officials for crimes under international law against the Rohingya population in Rakhine, and against ethnic minorities in Kachin and northern Shan states.</p>    <p>The report said that “an ethnic Rakhine armed group known as the Arakan Army carried out coordinated attacks on four police posts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 13 police officers on Jan. 4, 2019” and “Myanmar’s civilian government instructed the military to launch an operation to ‘crush’ the Arakan Army, which the government spokesperson referred as as a ‘terrorist organization’”.</p>    <p>The Arakan Army is an armed Buddhist group that wants more autonomy for the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic minority.</p>    <p>It has fought the military as part of an alliance of armed groups in northern Myanmar and, as it has moved its attention to Chin and Rakhine states in recent years, has clashed sporadically with security forces there, according to the Amnesty.</p>    <p>The Myanmar army “has since moved considerable assets and troops into the region”.</p>      <p>The report said that “more than 5,200 men, women and children had been displaced by the ongoing fighting by 28 January, according to the UN.”</p>    <p>“They are overwhelmingly from predominantly Buddhist ethnic minorities, including the Mro, Khami, Daingnet and Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said it has found that “they fled their villages after the security forces shelled nearby or placed restrictions on food.”</p>    <p>In a June 2017 report, Amnesty International documented in detail “indiscriminate shelling by the Myanmar military during its operations in Kachin and Shan States, which killed and injured civilians and displaced thousands”.</p>    <p>“These unlawful attacks are sowing fear in many villages,” said Hassan.</p>    <p> </p>  <p>- Restrictions on humanitarian access</p>    <p>“The Myanmar authorities have also imposed further restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine State. On 10 January, the Rakhine State government barred all UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations, except the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and World Food Programme (WFP), from operating in five conflict-affected townships,” said the report, as well.</p>    <p>“Many organizations have had to stop their humanitarian assistance, undermining emergency response and relief efforts in one of Myanmar’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions,” it said.

More than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, according to Amnesty International.

Since then, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

The OIDA also reported that more than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police, and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

– Arbitrary detention

<p>The Myanmar security forces also “appear to be using abusive laws to detain and prosecute civilians for allegedly supporting the Arakan Army, raising concerns about arbitrary detention and potential ill-treatment,” the Amnesty noted. </p>  <p>In a June 2018 report, Amnesty International “documented torture and other inhuman treatment against Rohingya men and boys held in BGP posts in Rakhine.”</p>    <p>The Amnesty said local activists and media reports suggest that “arbitrary detentions and the use of vague and repressive laws have been commonplace during the latest military operation in Rakhine State.”</p>    <p>The group added, based on local reports, that “around 30 village administrators submitted resignation letters in January, out of concern they might be wrongly prosecuted for unlawful association”.

Assad lost legitimacy, British envoy says

                              By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal </p>  <p>LONDON (AA) - The Assad regime in Syria “lost its legitimacy due to its atrocities against Syrian people,” according to Martin Longden, the U.K.’s special representative for Syria.</p>  <p>Longden said on Twitter on Tuesday that the U.K. closed its embassy in Damascus in 2012 and “we have no plans to reopen it.”</p>  <p>“End of story,” he stressed.</p>  <p>The U.K. shuttered its embassy in Damascus after the Bashar al-Assad regime targeted Syrians following anti-regime protests, which followed similar protests of the Arab Spring.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- UK critical of Assad</p>  <p>The U.K. has been critical of the regime in Syria since the beginning of atrocities targeting civilians.</p>  <p>“Protecting Syrians and getting them the lifesaving aid they need must be paramount,” said then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson almost a year ago, in response to the devastating siege of Eastern Ghouta.</p>  <p>“The U.K. is committed to working closely with all international partners to secure an end to the terrible bloodshed and make progress towards a political solution, which is the only way to bring peace to the people of Syria,” he said.</p>  <p>“The Syrian regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people,” and chemical arms have “become an all-too-regular weapon of war in the Syrian conflict,” Peter Wilson, Britain’s representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said following chemical weapons use by Assad forces in various locations, including Douma. </p>  <p>Wilson’s statement came at an OPCW Executive Council Meeting last year following joint airstrikes by the U.S., U.K., and France on reported Assad regime chemical weapons facilities in Syria.</p>  <p>Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.</p>  <p>Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

Gambia launches probe into former ruler’s abuse

By Mustapha K Darboe

BANJUL, Gambia (AA) – Gambia on Monday launched an 11-member Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) tasked with probing the atrocities committed under former dictator Yahya Jammeh.

The commission is expected to investigate atrocities and recommend prosecution of individuals involved.

“The TRRC serves as an opportunity of a rebirth and healing to the nation and to the victims, it provides an opportunity to establish the truth with regards to what they went through,” Gambian President Adama Barrow said.

Barrow pledged that the commission will have a complete independence from the influence of the executive.

“Let us stand together and say: 'Never again shall a few people oppress us as a nation[…] Never shall this beautiful Smiling Coast experience the oppression and tyranny of the minority against the majority',” he added.

Gambia’s former ruler has been in power for 22 years during which he was accused of several rights violations — including summary executions, disappearances, torture and rape.

Madi Jobarteh, a leading rights activist in Gambia and country director of Westminster Foundation, told Anadolu Agency the commission faces high expectations of justice from the people of the country.

Lamin J Ceesay, the chairman of the commission, who along with other members of the commission took oath on Monday, was a former executive assistant and senior adviser to late UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, and top UN officials also attended the oath taking ceremony.

Bensouda, a Gambian herself, said the ICC will be keenly following the developments at the commission.

Jammeh currently lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

New report: Myanmar army killed over 24,000 Rohingya

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – More than 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces since August 2017, according to a new report.

The figures were revealed in the report — Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience — released by the Ontario International Development Agency, which involved researchers and organizations from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Norway and the Philippines.

Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar said more than 40,000 Rohingya had suffered bullet wounds, the report said.

The research brought the estimated number of murdered Rohingya up to 23,962 (± 881) from its previously provided number of 9,400 by the Doctors Without Borders.

More than 34,000 people were thrown into fire and more than 114,000 others were beaten, according to the research.

It also says 17,718 (±780) Rohingya women and girls were raped since Myanmar army and police systematically targeted the world’s most persecuted group.

The research showed that more than 115,000 Rohingya houses were burnt down and 113,000 others were vandalized.

A previous report by the Doctors Without Borders had said at least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year.

The humanitarian group said the number included 730 children below the age of 5.

– Disturbing evidence

The new study gave examples of brutality by the Myanmar army and the inhumane treatment on the Rohingya minority.

One of the most disturbing accounts reported by the study group is of a 21-year-old Rohingya woman, Hasina Begum who was “lucky enough to survive and fled to Bangladesh”.

In her village Tolatuli (Moungdaw), Begum heard gunshots and saw the military burning down her village and killing people. She and her family, together with others, took refuge at a riverbank but the army personnel surrounded them and started firing, killing 50-60 of them in the first fire.

Some of them jumped into the river but only a few survived.

The army killed all men in the next four to five hours and burned their bodies in holes dug in the ground. The army members then took Begum’s four-month-old baby and threw it into the burning fire.

The soldiers raped young women, including Begum, before setting fire on the building they were in before leaving.

Begum and her sister-in-law later managed to reach the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in the following few days.

– Most persecuted minority

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

More than 40 per cent of the displaced Rohingya are under age 12, according to the UN and many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection.

The settlements in Kutupalong and Nayapara in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district host nearly all who arrived from Myanmar.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

EU sanctions, a 'response' to Myanmar atrocities

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – A series of EU sanctions introduced against the members of Myanmar armed forces “are a direct response to the appalling violence, including sexual violence, that took place in Rakhine last year”, the British government said Monday.

“The individuals listed were responsible for units that have been identified as the perpetrators of this violence,” Mark Field, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) minister for Asia said.

Field’s comments followed a decision by the EU to impose an asset freeze and a travel ban Monday on seven members of the Myanmar’s military and police force.

The sanctions have been introduced due to the individuals’ involvement in atrocities and human rights violations that targeted the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

The decision underlined that the violations included unlawful killings, sexual violence and the systematic burning of Rohingya houses in 2017.

Field said the U.K. was “involved in identifying the individuals in question, and led on collecting the evidence required to build the legal case for sanctions against them,” and “was instrumental in delivering today’s introduction of targeted sanctions.”

Field underlined that the sanctions are “a message to the Burmese military”.

He said the situation in Myanmar was being watched by the international community and more names could be added to the list of those facing sanctions.

“We will continue to monitor closely the Burmese military’s behavior across Burma, and build evidence as necessary,” Field said.

Describing the “human rights violations” in Rakhine as “horrific”, the British minister added that the “U.K. pressure — and international pressure — will not stop until there is accountability for the perpetrators, and justice for the victims.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children, and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published recently, the humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Nigerian Muslim body calls for sanctions on Israel

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) – A Nigerian Muslim body called on international community to pressure the U.S. and Israel to stop atrocities against Palestinians.

“After 70 years since the Palestinian people were evicted from their houses and turned into refugees, another 60 innocent young men and women were killed by Israeli snipers and over 2,000 were injured,” Abdul Waheed Atoyebi, chief of the Muslim Awareness International, told a news briefing in Lagos on Tuesday.

“The Israeli government as usual continues to be defiant, using deception, lies and false narratives to defend their indefensible crimes against humanity.”

Atoyebi said the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was “provocative and exposed Washington as a biased party that could no longer serve the cause of justice or fairness on the Palestinian issue.”

He praised Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for showing “unequivocal solidarity” with the Palestinians. He also commended South Africa and Nigeria which have registered their protests at the maltreatment of the Palestinians.

“The whole world is taking note of the great roles Turkey is playing. We call on the Arab league to wake up from their slumber and follow the steps of countries who are standing up to be counted. Arab nations should stop burying their heads in the sand while Palestine and Islam’s third holiest site are under constant attacks,” Atoyebi said.

He called on the UN to go beyond the symbolic criticism of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians and impose appropriate sanctions to force Israel and its allies to revisit their decisions.

UK says Myanmar army behind 'systematic violence'

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – Myanmar’s military is “primarily to blame for the widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya,” a senior UK minister said Monday.

Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field issued the statement following the release of an interim report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar, where the country’s Muslim community has suffered atrocities by the country’s army.

“This report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on human rights has reaffirmed the appalling human rights violations that so many in Burma [Myanmar] have suffered and confirms that the Burmese military are primarily to blame for the widespread and systematic violence against the Rohingya,” Field said.

Myanmar has refused to give UN investigators access to the country and blocked an independent and impartial investigation after destroying at least 319 villages, the report said.

“These findings show the vital importance of an open and transparent investigation into these appalling events, and I urge the Burmese authorities to reverse their decision not to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and allow them immediate access so they can continue their work,” Field said.

Field urged Myanmar authorities “to establish a credible and independent investigation into these horrifying accusations and a judicial process to hold to account those responsible for abuses."

Both the Myanmar military and civilian authorities have effectively labeled the Rohingya population as Bengali "illegal immigrants" and "extremist terrorists", said Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN mission.

"It is critically important for the displaced people not to be returned without adequate guarantees for human rights protection in place. Otherwise, we could be laying the groundwork not for solutions, but for another repeat experience," he said.

Field also said “the UK is fully committed to help bring an end to this humanitarian crisis” and plans to update Parliament on the government’s approach “at the earliest opportunity allowed."

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes, and torched Rohingya villages.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published last Dec. 12, the doctors' group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of five.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

Syrians recall PYD/PKK atrocities in Raqqah

By Muslum Etgu

SANLIURFA, Turkey (AA) – Syrian civilians who fled atrocities committed by PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorist groups have recalled their suffering under the two terror groups in Syria’s northern city of Raqqah.

Ammar Khalil, who used to have a tire shop in Raqqah before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, said Daesh’s seizure of the city was the start of his suffering, before the situation worsened under PYD/PKK.

"I was forced to leave my shop and take shelter in Turkey,” Khalil told Anadolu Agency.

“I was later told by my father, who had to stay in Raqqah to take care of his mother, that PYD/PKK had seized my shop," he said.

Khalil said he was warned by his father against returning to Raqqah as he would be recruited to as a soldier by PYD/PKK terrorist group.

He cited that PYD/PKK demands about 70,000 Syrian pounds ($135) from Arabs seeking to return to the city.

Khalil lamented that he was unable to take part in the funeral of his uncle, who was killed while trying to dismantle landmines left by Daesh and PYD/PKK.

"It has been 20 days since his death and I can't do anything,” he said. “Assad, Daesh and PYD/PKK are terrorizing us. We don't accept any of them.”

Khalil said Syrians living in Turkey are glad to see Ankara launching Operation Olive Branch to expel PYD/PKK from the northern city of Afrin.

"May God bless [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish Armed Forces," he said.

– PYD/PKK terrorism

Fedyah Hamat, another Syrian civilian living in Turkey, said PYD/PKK terrorists had seized her father’s five-story building and her brother’s dessert shop in Raqqah.

"Daesh and PYD/PKK have broken our peace in the city,” she said.

"We were forced to migrate and took shelter in Turkey. May God bless them (Turks); they have given jobs and food,” Hamat said.

“If they clean Raqqah after Afrin, we would be so happy. We would go back to Raqqah once it is cleared from PYD/PKK,” she said.

Hamat underlined that PYD/PKK mistreated Arabs.

"They take a young boy from every house. We don't know where these people end up,” she said. “Nobody goes by their will, they are taken by force. Those who object to recruitment are put in jail.”

"If you refuse to join them, you are labeled as an enemy who is siding with PYD/PKK's enemies. The Arab youth recruited by them are sent to the frontlines, without having any proper training," she stated.

"All we want is that PYD/PKK gets the hell out of Raqqah; My husband and I currently can't go back as we are aware of the fact that they would force my husband to join their forces," she said.

Atrocities against women, children reported in Congo

By Godfrey Olukya

ARU, Democratic Republic of Congo (AA)- The UN high commissioner for human rights said Tuesday that militiamen linked to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo have in recent months been committing such atrocities as cutting babies’ limbs and stabbing pregnant women.

A UN statement quoted Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the commissioner, relating harrowing reports of killings and mutilation, including of children as young as two, in the Kasai region.

“One 2-month-old baby seen by my team had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth; the mother was also wounded. At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their fetuses mutilated,” he added.

He said he was not happy about the link between government and the milita group killing people.

“I am appalled by the creation and arming of a militia, the Bana Mura — allegedly to support the authorities in fighting the Kamuina Nsapu,” he added.

Since August 2016, Kamuina Nsapu militiamen have been clashing with government forces, leading to over 1,000 deaths and displacing over 1 million people.