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Myanmar violence continues in northern Kachin state: HRW

Violence and rights abuses continue in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] Tuesday. HRW claims that a significant number of civilians are subject to abuses due to the conflict between Myanmar's armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) [BBC backgrounder]. The report showed through interviews that Myanmar's army attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties and displaced civilians. The army also reportedly utilized torture and threatened civilians in order to obtain information about KIA. On the other hand, HRW reports that the KIA has also been involved in the abuses against civilians including recruiting and using children as soldiers. The report estimated that around 75,000 people have fled from their homes since June 2011, at which time Myanmar's army engaged in armed conflict with the KIA after 17 years of ceasefire. HRW reports that conditions are in violation of international humanitarian law:

International humanitarian law, commonly referred to as the laws of war, imposes legal obligations upon parties to an armed conflict to reduce unnecessary suffering and to protect civilians and other non-combatants. All armed forces involved in an armed conflict, including non-state armed groups such as the KIA, are obligated to abide by international humanitarian law. Individuals who deliberately or recklessly commit serious violations of international humanitarian law can be prosecuted in domestic or international courts for war crimes.
The report urged various parties to take measures so that they are in compliance with the international humanitarian law, to assist independent investigations to the alleged crimes, to demobilize child soldiers and to provide the needed aid for civilians.

This is not the first time that Myanmar's army has been criticized for abuses against civilians. In November, Human rights group Partners Relief and Development [advocacy website] issued [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF, graphic content] which alleged that the army may be committing war crimes including torture and forced labor against ethnic communities in Kachin state. Earlier of that month, however, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon [official profile] congratulated [JURIST report] President Thien Sein [BBC backgrounder] on the country's ongoing reforms toward democracy. In August, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar urged [JURIST report] the government of Myanmar to investigate human rights abuses and improve its rights record.

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