On 25 July 2022, the military junta announced that it had executed four prodemocracy activists, including former rapper and legislator Phyo Zeya Thaw, protest leader Ko Jimmy, and political prisoners Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw. They are among the more than 120 people whom the military has sentenced to death since it deposed the democratically elected government in a coup on 1 February 2021. Excerpted below is a statement from Burma’s National Unity Government spokesperson. (For the full statement, see: https://moic.nugmyanmar.org/condemns-unlawful-execution-of-ko-jimmy-phyo-zeya-thaw-hla-myo-aung-aung-thura-zaw-and-call-for-immediate-action.)
Today is a dark day for Myanmar and, indeed, the world. Amid the backdrop of the heinous and abhorrent invasion of Ukraine and the numerous war crimes visited upon the Ukrainian people, the Myanmar genocidal military has sought to follow the Russian example of brutality and cruelty. The reintroduction of capital punishment is a blight on our nation, on humanity as a whole. For the military generals to not only stoop so low, but also inaugurate their return to medieval cruelty with a quadruple execution is barbarism beyond comprehension.
Today we, the people of Myanmar, all are Hla Myo Aung, we are Ko Aung Thura Zaw, we are Phyo Zeya Thaw, and we are Ko Jimmy. In a country where every ninth person is suffering food shortage, a country where more than one million civilians have fled their homes and villages and have nowhere to live, a country where everyone has lost a family member or a friend to hunger, exposure, war, landmines, arbitrary killings, or the COVID pandemic the military did their utmost to exacerbate, we are all the victims of the military’s crimes. We have not all met the same fate as the four young men horrifically taken from us on Saturday, but rest assured, if the military could, they would see every Myanmar man, woman, and child who does not bend to their will swinging from the gallows. The generals would sooner rule over a nation of rotting corpses than give up their fever-dream of total and complete domination of Myanmar’s people, resources, and political institutions. . . .
. . . The genocidal military generals have drawn the attention and the rebuke of the civilized world. No legitimate government needs to silence dissent at the gallows. . . . The military have laid bare their contempt for international norms and for their own people. No one can now entertain the notion that the military can be reasoned with, that the military would ever tolerate a gradual transition back to democracy, that the military could establish and maintain in Myanmar a stable and peaceful regime. . . . The executions of our comrades mark only the newest escalation in the military’s long history of human rights violations, and without immediate and decisive actions, we can expect the military’s cruelty, inhumanity and brutality to grow worse. . . .
. . . We call on all free and democratic states on Earth to take action against the junta and their crimes. . . . Think of tens of thousands of young Myanmar men and women dead, dying, wounded, caged, starving, or grieving who fought and who will fight for the victory of democracy. In your hands are the keys to their salvation and deliverance.
On 31 August 2022, the UN Human Rights Commission published a report concluding that “serious human rights violations” had been inflicted on the Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Up to a million Uyghurs have been detained in so-called vocational education and training centers (VETC), where UN officials identified instances of torture and sexual violence. The Chinese government tried to suppress the report and denies its claims, which add to the overwhelming evidence of the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities in Xinjiang. Excerpts follow. (For the full report, see: www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/countries/2022-08-31/22-08-31-final-assesment.pdf.)
- Serious human rights violations have been committed in XUAR in the context of the Government’s application of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism” strategies. The implementation of these strategies, and associated policies in XUAR has led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights. These patterns of restrictions are characterized by a discriminatory component, as the underlying acts often directly or indirectly affect Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities.
- These human rights violations, as documented in this assessment, flow from a domestic “anti-terrorism law system” that is deeply problematic from the perspective of international human rights norms and standards. It contains vague, broad and open-ended concepts that leave wide discretion to officials to interpret and apply broad investigative, preventive and coercive powers, in a context of limited safeguards and scant independent oversight. This framework . . . has in practice led to the large-scale arbitrary deprivation of liberty of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim communities in XUAR in so-called VETC and other facilities, at least between 2017 and 2019. Even if the VETC system has since been reduced in scope or wound up, as the Government has claimed, the laws and policies that underpin it remain in place. There appears to be a parallel trend of an increased number and length of imprisonments occurring through criminal justice processes, suggesting that the focus of deprivation of liberty has shifted towards imprisonment, on purported grounds of counter-terrorism and counter-“extremism.”
- The treatment of persons held in the system of so-called VETC facilities is of equal concern. Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence. . . .
- The systems of arbitrary detention and related patterns of abuse in VETC and other detention facilities come against the backdrop of broader discrimination against members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities based on perceived security threats emanating from individual members of these groups. This has included far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international norms and standards. These have included undue restrictions on religious identity and expression, as well as the rights to privacy and movement. There are serious indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive and discriminatory enforcement of family planning and birth control policies. Similarly, there are indications that labour and employment schemes for purported purposes of poverty alleviation and prevention of “extremism,” including those linked to the VETC system, may involve elements of coercion and discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds.
- The described policies and practices in XUAR have transcended borders, separating families and severing human contacts, while causing particular suffering to affected Uyghur, Kazakh and other predominantly Muslim minority families, exacerbated by patterns of intimidations and threats against members of the diaspora community speaking publicly about experiences in XUAR.
- . . . The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim groups, pursuant to law and policy, in context of restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.
- The Government holds the primary duty to ensure that all laws and policies are brought into compliance with international human rights law and to promptly investigate any allegations of human rights violations, to ensure accountability for perpetrators and to provide redress to victims. Individuals who are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty should be immediately released. As the conditions remain in place for serious violations to continue and recur, these must also be addressed promptly and effectively. . . .
On 3 August 2022, government authorities shut down Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an NGO that since 2004 has been a leading advocate for LGBTQ rights in the country. SMUG’s closure comes amid a wider crackdown on civil society and the LGBTQI+ community. Excerpts from a statement signed by more than ninety NGOs worldwide follow. (For the full statement, see: https://rfkhumanrights.org/press/international-organizations-condemn-the-shutdown-of-ugandan-organization-sexual-minorities-uganda-smug-call-for-authorities-to-reverse-the-decision-immediately.)
The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the decision to shut down the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda . . . . We call on the Ugandan government to reverse this decision, and to bring an end to the longstanding persecution of Uganda’s vibrant LGBTQI+ community.
On August 3, the National Bureau for Non-Government Organizations (NGO Bureau), the Ugandan government body that regulates NGOs in the country, halted SMUG’s operations for failing to register with the NGO Bureau. However, SMUG applied for registration with the Bureau in 2012. In a 2016 letter, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) rejected its application to reserve the name “Sexual Minorities Uganda” on the basis that the name was “undesirable and unregistrable that the proposed company to be incorporated to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under sect. 145 of the Penal Code Act.” This latest attack highlights the prevalence of discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia in Uganda and the readiness of Ugandan Government authorities to repress the country’s LGBTQI+ population.
This decision to shut down SMUG’s operations discriminates against LGBTQI+ people and is in direct contravention of Uganda’s international legal obligations to treat all persons as equal before the law and to respect their right to freedom of association.
We join SMUG to ask that:
- The Ugandan government comply with its obligations to protect the LGBTQI+ community under international human rights law.
- Ugandan law enforcement not use this recent pronouncement as a means to attack members of SMUG or the broader LGBTQI+ community. . . .
- And we call on the international community to protest this decision at the highest levels before the situation deteriorates any further.
The “Prague Manifesto for a Free Ukraine” calls on the global community to redouble its efforts in support of Ukraine’s democracy and its resistance against the Russian invasion, which entered its sixth month in August 2022. Excerpts follow from the declaration, which was signed by nearly 200 attendees of the Forum 2000 Conference that month. (For the full manifesto, see: www.forum2000.cz/en/forum-2000-conferences-2022-prague-manifesto-for-a-free-ukraine-2022.)
The heroic Ukrainian resistance has generated a massive wave of solidarity. The transatlantic and global alliance of democracies has united in providing Ukraine with military assistance, humanitarian aid, and medical support. Many countries have welcomed Ukrainian refugees and granted them safe haven while at the same time imposing sweeping financial and economic sanctions on Russia and resolving to end Western dependence on Russian oil and gas. Much more, however, is needed. . . .
We, the citizens of European countries and members of the global civil society signed below, hereby resolve to:
- Welcome the candidate status that the European Union has offered to Ukraine and urge the European institutions to move ahead as fast as possible and not delay additional support to the country, expeditiously within the context of the ongoing war. The political leadership of the EU member states and EU institutions must maximize their efforts to help lay the foundation for building a resilient democracy in Ukraine and preparing for its full-fledged EU membership. . . . EU member states should establish a realistic timeframe with clear and achievable milestones for Ukraine to become a full-fledged member of the EU as soon as possible.
- Request that the EU play a leading role in mobilizing global resources for rebuilding Ukraine. . . . Embracing the prospect of Ukraine’s future membership should be regarded as a step towards securing the EU’s own economic interests in Ukraine.
- Ask the global democratic community to invest in a better and more prosperous future for Ukraine. . . . The reconstruction efforts should help write a chapter of hope for Ukraine after this devastating war. The mutual ownership of both the democratic international community and Ukrainian people should be ensured through the joint oversight and accountability of reconstruction process ensuring the effective and meaningful use of funds provided by international donors. . . .
- . . . Call upon the leaders of the world’s democracies and all who consider themselves to be part of the “civilized world” to take decisive measures to ensure that possible crimes against humanity [perpetrated by Russian forces during the war] will be thoroughly investigated and that those found guilty of having committed war crimes and genocide will be held accountable and punished.
The agenda for democracy and reconstruction that we have laid out cannot be realized if the war is allowed to become a bloody and protracted stalemate. It is urgent that the United States and Europe continue providing Ukraine with the weapons it needs to take the offensive and expel Russia from the territories it has occupied since 2014. . . . The defeat of Russia’s aggression is a precondition for a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. And the victory of Ukraine will renew the promise of democracy for people across the world.
Despite fighting Nazism during the Second World War, Russia has come to embody a “Fourth Reich” through Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, writes former Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev in his war memoir entitled Zov. Named for the infamous letter “Z” appearing on Russian military equipment used in the invasion, his memoir recounts his two-month experience fighting in southern Ukraine and calls for greater pluralism in Russia. After becoming disillusioned with the Kremlin’s propaganda, the disastrous conduct of the war, and the poorly equipped invading force, Filatyev posted Zov to social media in August. He has been forced to flee the country. A translated excerpt follows. (For a translation of the full version, see: https://ianewatts.org/zov-suffering.)
Does patriotism really consist in willingness to destroy a neighboring state, and not love for one’s own country? Why did they equate love of country and love of government?
But the great bulk of people in the country occupy the cunning position of waiting, “I don’t know what the f—k is going on,” they are not happy with all this and understand that everything is getting worse and worse, but they do nothing, let others rock the boat, I will sit back and see who wins, “idiots who are ashamed to be Russian” or “frenzied people with the letter Z on the car window,” I will join those who win. Usually these “citizens” make arguments that nothing depends on them, or “I have a family, kids.” Yes, exactly, “You have kids!”—I do not understand you at all, do you want them to live in such a surreal country?! What kind of future do you want for them?! Every year the country is ever more swiftly sinking to the depths of this world!
How many times in my life I have heard about the greatness of our army from all kinds of people who themselves have never even been there, but when I tried to explain something to them, I heard only an assortment of stereotypes from propaganda, and they could not ponder, hear any arguments about the fact that our army is in decline. There is one more category of people, even more dangerous—that is those who are in this army, those who seeing the whole mess from inside lie to themselves and everyone around them that things are not so bad. They have different motives, not much time left until their retirement, big stars on their shoulders for the sake of which they shoved common sense far away all their lives and tolerated for so many years whatever necessary, just to advance in their career in this rotten system. Now all these people see . . . they have ruined the army to such an extent that it can’t even cope with the Ukrainian army. How can we talk about America or China? The collapse of our army brings closer the arrival of someone else’s army, ask the Ukrainians how much they like the presence of someone else’s army, and not those who are “ashamed to be Russian,” not those who “wanted to repeat.” You will not like the presence of someone else’s army in our country, in this case you will immediately regret your criminal inaction, but it will already be too late.
I’m so sick and tired of watching the growing madness in my country over the years that I just don’t care anymore. Put me away for life, I don’t want to see all this.
I am not a slave! I am not a coward! I am a patriot! I am sorry that my fate turned out this way! I am sorry for the Ukrainian people, a fraternal people to me! But even more, I am sorry for the used Russian people, the peoples of the great USSR, whose people were used by others, but more unprincipled, ruining the biggest and greatest country in the world!
Copyright © 2022 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press