OHCHR – UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Author)
GENEVA (2 December 2021) – UN human rights experts* today called on Myanmar’s military chief to immediately halt ongoing forced evictions and home demolitions of informal settlements in Hlaing Thar Yar Township in the Yangon region, saying the army’s actions were illegal under international law.
The experts said those already evicted must be provided with alternative accommodation and necessary assistance in accessing food, clothing, water and sanitation facilities and services.
“Forced evictions are a gross violation of international human rights law,” they said. “When realized under conditions of martial law and civil strife, they raise also concerns under international criminal law, which condemns forced removals, arbitrary displacement and deportations.”
On 28 October, approximately 8,000 families were evicted and left homeless, without any compensation. Tens of bulldozers and military trucks entered the affected area accompanied by armed soldiers, police officers and municipal workers, pulling down makeshift huts and houses. Reports said many families had already demolished their housing the night before, out of fear of facing arrest or beatings by the soldiers.
Further evictions are being undertaken in the Hlaing Thar Yar Township as well as in informal settlements in other townships in the Yangon area.
“We are alarmed at the use of force and the pressure, which appears to be used as a means to force residents to destroy their houses and relocate, against their will, in a context marked by the continued application of martial law to the area following the protests against the coup,” the experts said.
The UN experts already addressed their concerns to the Commander in Chief of the military, urging to identify a permanent solution to fulfil the housing needs of the residents living in the informal settlements of Hlaing Thar Yar Township, in consultation with them, and to halt the evictions and any acts of intimidation against the residents. The experts also urged measures to protect the people concerned from any risks to their health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Actors exercising either government-like functions or de facto control over territory and population must respect and protect the human rights of individuals and groups,” the experts said.
Recalling that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing, the experts highlighted that no derogation is permitted due to an emergency. “The right to adequate housing must be observed under all circumstances, even if martial law is invoked,” they said.
* The experts: Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal , Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context. Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons. Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.