Submission for the UN Universal Periodic Review: Human rights concerns in KHRG research areas

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In 2006, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) was established and empowered to review the human rights practices of every UN member state, using a mechanism called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). UPR processes are conducted every four years for each member state by soliciting information from states, UN Agencies and other stakeholders, including local organisations. In January 2011, the HRC is scheduled to review the human rights practices of Burma’s military government for the first time. KHRG submitted information for inclusion in this review on July 5th 2010. This brief submission, based upon 61 KHRG reports published during the period 2008-2010, is reproduced below.
    Submission July 6, 2010 / KHRG #2010-03 Submission for the UN Universal Periodic Review: Humanrights concerns in KHRG research areas In 2006, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) was established and empowered toreview the human rights practices of every UN member state, using a mechanism called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). UPR processes are conducted every four years for each member state by soliciting information from states, UN Agencies and other stakeholders, including local organisations. InJanuary 2011, the HRC is scheduled to review the human rights practices of Burma’s military government for the first time. KHRG submitted information for inclusion in this review on July 5  th 2010. This brief submission, based upon 61 KHRG reports published during the period 2008-2010, is reproduced below. Executive summary   In this submission, the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) provides information under sectionsA, C and D as stipulated in the General Guidelines for the Preparation of Information under the UniversalPeriodic Review: A. Methodology . This section details the methodology used by KHRG to gather information for this submission. C.   Promotion and protection of human rights . This section details KHRG concerns related to practices by the Government of Myanmar (GOM) 1 in areas researched by KHRG: Forced labour;Taxation, capricious demands and looting; Targeting of civilians in conflict; Forced relocation and landconfiscation; movement and trade restrictions; Arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, summary execution andunexplained violence; Landmines, remnants of war and forced demining; Forced recruitment of adultsand children into the armed forces; Denial of access to humanitarian services; and Cumulative impacts onlivelihoods and displacement. D.   Constraints, best practices and recommendations . This section details constraints faced byhuman rights monitors and defenders. It also details best practices for improving human rights asdeveloped by local communities, and provides recommendations for actions by the government to addressareas of concern highlighted in Section C. Organizational information  The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) is an independent local organisation committed toimproving the human rights situation in Myanmar by projecting the voices of villagers and supportingtheir strategies to claim human rights. We train and equip local people to document villagers' stories andgather evidence of human rights abuses; disseminate this information worldwide; and work directly withlocal villagers in enhancing their strategies to resist human rights abuses. KHRG has been formallydocumenting abuses in eastern Myanmar since 1992. With eighteen years of experience, and twicenominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (in 2000 and 2001), KHRG is now recognised internationally as aleading authority on human rights in eastern Myanmar, particularly major issues such as internaldisplacement and forced labour. 1 The UN uses “Government of Myanmar” to refer to Burma’s State Peace and Development Council militarygovernment. Because this report was a formal submission to the UN Human Rights Council, this language has beenretained.    2 A. Methodology  1. Sources. This submission draws on information from more than 420 detailed reports published by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) since its formal documentation activities began in1992; 61 of these reports from the period 2008-2010 have been footnoted to provide examples thatsubstantiate claims made in this submission. 2. Geographic area. Research for this submission was conducted in an area sometimes locallyreferred to as “Karen State.” According to designations used by the Government of Myanmar (GOM),this includes all or portions of Kayin, Kayah and Mon states and significant parts of Bago and TanintharyiDivisions. Research was conducted in three types of areas, referred to as: “government controlled” areas,where government control has been consolidated and there is an absence of opposition Non-State ArmedGroups (NSAGs) and open conflict; “mixed-administration” areas, where control by the GOM or allied NSAG is nominal, an opposition NSAG continues to exert some control and conflict occurs; and “shoot-on-sight” areas, where the GOM Army or an allied NSAG have not yet established control, opposition NSAGs exert significant control and open conflict is frequent. Shoot-on-sight areas are home tosubstantial numbers of civilians; calculations released in November 2009 indicate that more than 89,000 people remain in hiding and are at risk of being shot on sight by the GOM Army in states and divisionswhere KHRG conducts research. i   3. Research methods and verification. Research was conducted by a network of salaried andvolunteer researchers trained by KHRG. KHRG reports cited in this submission draw information from photographic and film documentation, qualitative interviews with civilians of ethnic groups including butnot limited to Kayin, Kayah, Mon, Shan and Burman, a formalized incident reporting system and fieldnotes and trend monitoring by researchers. Strength and credibility of information was assessedaccording to corroboration by multiple sources. Where verification by multiple sources was not possible,information was checked against local trends, first by field researchers permanently stationed in a givenarea and intimately aware of local conditions. Checking was then done by KHRG’s information processing office, which compared information to reports by other researchers and trends noted in 18years of research. 4. Independence. Though KHRG often operates in or through areas controlled by a variety of groups that carry arms, including the GOM Army and NSAGs like the Karen National Liberation Army(KNLA) ii and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) iii , KHRG is independent and unaffiliated.KHRG has sometimes, but not always, made use of armed KNLA escorts in areas where there is a highlikelihood of imminent armed conflict. GOM Army and DKBA forces have not been willing to providesimilar escorts. For more on obstacles to human rights documentation, see Section D-1. 5. Selection bias. Because of the obstacles described in Section D-1, it is only possible for KHRG researchers to interview civilians that are not likely to report the interview to GOM authorities.Such interviewees are sometimes also – but not always – KNLA supporters. The result is that the viewsof ‘supporters’ of the GOM and, to a lesser degree, ‘opponents’ of the KNLA, are less represented inKHRG research. This limits KHRG’s ability to make conclusions about KNLA practices, thoughresearch protocol has been instituted to overcome this. This potential selection bias does not, however,call into question evidence documented regarding GOM practices. While there is a risk that individualsinterviewed by KHRG might hold personal biases that cause them to provide exaggerated or inaccurateinformation, verification practices described above in Section A-3 are designed to prevent suchinaccuracies from being reported by KHRG. Importantly, inaccuracies from potential source biases areminimized by the extremely large sample size of information gathered by KHRG over the last 18 years. C. Promotion and protection of human rights  1. Forced labour . The most common complaints voiced by villagers in government controlledand mixed-administration areas relate to demands on their labour, money and materials. iv These abusesare most often related to supporting military infrastructure, and increase in direct relationship to theconcentration of military forces stationed or staying in a given area. These abuses appear to be part of theGOM Army’s ‘self-reliance’ policy, by which regional commanders meet basic logistical needs locally. v  Civilians are frequently required to carry ammunition and other supplies for soldiers on patrol, vi during re-supply activities vii or periodic rotation of battalions viii or changes in the location of camps or bases. ix  Troop movements, or the transport of supplies, also result in civilians from communities passed through    3  by soldiers being taken as porters and guides. x Convicts are also removed from prisons and used as porters xi and labourers. xii Porters are often exposed to intense dangers or killed, including fromlandmines xiii and fighting between NSAGs and the GOM Army units they are attached to. xiv Communitiesnear army camps and bases are forced to construct and maintain the camps, xv including building shelters xvi  and fortifications such as fences xvii or earthen bunkers. xviii Civilians are also forced to collect suppliesfor, xix fabricate xx and deliver  xxi building materials such as roof thatching, xxii timber  xxiii and bamboo, xxiv  activities that sometimes require travel to unfamiliar areas and expose them to new landmines risks. xxv  Villagers from these communities must also provide regular services to the camps, including standingsentry, xxvi delivering messages, xxvii carrying water  xxviii and performing other chores. xxix Villagers have also been forced to work on army projects such as agriculture xxx and logging operations. xxxi Civilians are alsosometimes required to provide labour for military and civilian government development projects, xxxii suchas the building of roads, xxxiii schools, xxxiv clinics xxxv and government buildings. xxxvi Villagers report thatthey are not compensated for this forced labour. xxxvii   2. Taxation, capricious demands and looting . In government-controlled and mixedadministration areas, communities that encounter soldiers – either on patrol or in fixed positions – mustfrequently provide food and monetary support. In some cases, periodic quotas are demanded for setamounts of cash xxxviii or supplies such as paddy or other food; xxxix in other contexts, ad hoc demands aremade for cash or food such as livestock  xl or liquor. xli Livestock  xlii and personal possessions xliii are alsofrequently looted xliv or commandeered xlv by soldiers, both by individual or small groups of soldiers, xlvi andlarger groups or units acting under orders. xlvii Cash payments are also demanded. In some cases, these payments are attached to a promise for provision of services, such as the building of a road, xlviii thoughthese services are not always provided. xlix In other cases, payments are demanded in lieu of labour;communities are sometimes able to, or required to, make payments rather than provide GOM Army or   pyithusit  People’s Militia recruits or porters. l In other cases, demands are simply made without anexplanation. li  3. Targeting of civilians in conflict. Civilians, including men, lii women, liii children liv and theelderly, lv are shot when encountered by GOM Army soldiers in shoot-on-sight areas, lvi who do not alwaysannounce themselves or take steps to distinguish between civilians and fighters. lvii Villages, lviii hidingsites, lix farm field huts, lx and villagers working in fields lxi are also fired upon indiscriminately, includingshelling from remote locations. lxii Importantly, remote shelling is frequently not triggered by prior firefrom NSAG forces and checks to determine whether settlements are military or civilian are not made. lxiii  Civilian settlements lxiv and hiding sites lxv , including schools lxvi and hospitals lxvii , also continue to bedeliberately destroyed, often by being set fire to, lxviii though civilians employ a variety of effectivestrategies that often enable them to escape during the initial stages of such attacks. Destruction of villagesis not an isolated occurrence; rather groups of battalions launch coordinated offensives against identifiedareas, lxix deliberately moving from village to village. lxx Civilian food supplies are also particularly soughtout and destroyed, including agriculture projects lxxi and food storage barns. lxxii The cumulative impacts of these practices are severe food shortages for large numbers of civilians currently residing in shoot-on-sight areas, lxxiii in some places so severe that civilian populations have told KHRG they do not think theycan survive the rest of the year. lxxiv These practices appear identical to the scorched earth and formal  pyaley pya , ‘four cuts,’ strategy used by the GOM Army to establish control of much of the country beginning in the 1950s. lxxv Though official references to the four cuts strategy have ceased,overwhelming evidence indicates these tactics targeting civilians continue to be systematically employed. 4. Forced relocation and land confiscation. Forced relocation has been extensively used tomove civilian populations to areas where they can be controlled, lxxvi both to prevent them from supporting NSAGs and so they can be utilized to support the GOM Army. lxxvii Forced relocation and landconfiscation have also been used to take land for development projects, such as dams, lxxviii new roads lxxix  and business ventures lxxx . In many cases, communities have been forcibly relocated to designatedrelocation sites, usually in government-controlled lowland areas. lxxxi Communities have sometimes, butnot always, lxxxii been given advance warning of relocation orders, permitting them time to collect materialsand dismantle homes. lxxxiii In other cases, relocation orders have been abrupt, allowing just a few days,hours or minutes for communities to make preparations and depart. lxxxiv Villagers have also been forcedto leave behind livestock, building materials and other essential possessions. lxxxv Following forcedrelocation, abandoned homes, villages and farm fields have been destroyed (see Section C-3) andsometimes mined (see Section C-7). Civilians returned to abandoned homes or to tend to agricultural    4 land have also been accused of contacting the KNLA, including being detained, beaten or summarilyexecuted (see Section C-6) or shot on sight lxxxvi (see Section C-3). 5. Movement and trade restrictions. Movement and trade restrictions are also used extensivelyin areas where government forces or civilian authorities feel vulnerable to attack or unrest or wherecivilian support bases may attempt to escape. Movement restrictions are used to prevent access to areasthat are not under control, for instance by blocking roads linking relocation sites or villages in lowlandareas with upland areas where KNLA units are active. lxxxvii Movement restrictions have includedcurfews, lxxxviii prohibitions or restrictions lxxxix on travel to certain areas and blanket bans on all movementsoutside a given village. xc Restrictions have also included the prohibition of sleeping at farm fields xci andthe destruction of temporary huts used to sleep near fields to protect them from animals and extendworkdays during crucial periods in the agricultural cycle. xcii These restrictions are devastating for IDPs inupland areas, because they prevent civilians from selling agricultural products and purchasing necessarysupplies such as food and medicine (see Section C-9). Humanitarian materials, even in small quantitiesfor personal use, are particularly targeted, and civilians have been searched and punished for travellingwith medicine, xciii in some cases resulting in the death of family members, including children, that couldnot access necessary supplies. xciv Movement restrictions are also devastating for agricultural communitiesin mixed-administration areas, because they shorten workdays or prevent farmers from accessing fields.These restrictions rarely take into account seasonal needs related to the agricultural cycle, sometimesforcing farmers to miss key planting or harvest periods and undermining or destroying crop yields.Movement and trade restrictions are backed with severe penalties: civilians violating them are sometimesshot on sight, xcv accused of supporting the KNLA and subjected to prolonged detention xcvi or torture (seeSection C-6), killed xcvii or made to pay large fines. xcviii  6. Arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, summary execution and unexplained violence. Civilians accused of making contact with or supporting the KNLA are detained and interrogated.Detention is sometimes for extended periods of time, without charge or permission to contact family. xcix  Interrogation often includes beating, c including while bound, ci and methods of torture including dunkingand simulated drowning cii and scalding with hot water. ciii Summary execution also occurs frequently. civ  Arbitrary violence without explanation also occurs, and villagers have reported being threatened, beatenor killed without being provided justification or explanation. cv   7. Landmines, remnants of war and forced demining. Landmines are used extensively by all parties to conflict in eastern Myanmar, including government forces. cvi GOM Army soldiers uselandmines to construct defensive perimeters around camps and bases in shoot-on-sight areas, as well assome mixed-administration areas, though they do not always remove these mines when camps arevacated. cvii GOM Army soldiers have also used landmines to control movements by the civilian population, particularly between mixed-administration and shoot-on-sight areas. cviii In areas wheregovernment forces are attempting to expand control or drive populations into lowland relocation sites,landmines have been placed in abandoned villages to prevent return by villagers in hiding. cix Landmineshave also been used to prevent access to agricultural land for villagers in hiding, cx and to prevent villagersfrom leaving forced relocation sites or returning to abandoned villages cxi and agricultural land. cxii  Landmines are not always clearly marked, nor are communities always warned of new dangerouslandmine areas. cxiii Government forces also appear to have shared landmines with the DKBA, cxiv whichhas placed these landmines in civilian areas without providing warnings to local communities. cxv GOMArmy soldiers also use civilians to clear landmines. cxvi The GOM Army has also forced civilians to walk in front of patrols to trigger mines, booby-traps or ambushes. cxvii Civilians have also been forced to clear  brush and debris from roadsides cxviii known to be mined by all parties to the conflict, activities whichamount to de facto dangerous and involuntary mine-clearance. Unexploded remnants of war are also asignificant threat to civilian populations, cxix particularly children. cxx   8. Forced recruitment of adults and children into the armed forces. The GOM Armycontinues to forcibly recruit civilians into the army cxxi and  pyithusit  People’s Militia. cxxii KHRG continuesto interview adult deserters from the GOM Army who indicate that large numbers of child soldiers remainunder arms. cxxiii Adult Army deserters have also described being forced or allowed to join even thoughthey were clearly not of the appropriate age at the time of enlistment cxxiv . Child Army deserters have also been interviewed by KHRG, and have noted that other children their age or younger remained within their  battalions. cxxv During 2009, the DKBA significantly increased forced recruitment, including of children,in areas under its control. cxxvi This forced recruitment of children is directly connected to GOM policy, as
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