Definitional ambiguity and UNSCR 1998: Impeding UN-led responses to attacks on health and education in eastern Burma

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Definitional ambiguity and UNSCR 1998: Impeding UN-led responses to attacks on health and education in eastern Burma

Published date:
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This paper highlights impediments to effective international responses to attacks on health and education in eastern Burma presented by lack of clarity regarding the meaning of "attacks" within the monitoring and reporting framework established by UN Security Council resolutions 1612 and 1998. In order to address this definitional ambiguity and enable recent developments in the UN Security Council to potentially provide support to communities facing attacks in eastern Burma, this paper argues for interpreting "attacks" in a fashion that is consistent with applicable international humanitarian law. The analysis below concludes that UN-led monitoring, reporting and response pursuant to UNSCRs 1612 and 1998 should include acts by parties to armed conflict that both: a) violate relevant international law; and b) attack or threaten to attack personnel related to schools or medical facilities and/ or destroy, damage or force the closure of a school or medical facility.

Footnotes

[1] Photographs of Tha Dah Der after the attack in July 2010 are available in KHRG Photo Gallery 2010-B, KHRG, February 2011, photos C-11 to C-22. Analysis of the attack in light of relevant international humanitarian law and UNSCR 1998 can be found in: Attacks on Health and Education: Trends and incidents from eastern Burma, 2010-2011, KHRG, December 2011.

[2] Resolution on children and armed conflict, SC Res 1998, UN SCOR, 66th Year, 6581st Meeting, UN Doc S/Res/1998 (2011).

[3] Resolution on children and armed conflict, SC Res. 1612, UN SCOR, 60th Year, 5235th Meeting, UN Doc S/Res/1612 (2005). In 2009, this resolution was augmented by UNSCR 1882; see: Resolution on children and armed conflict, SC Res 1882, UN SCOR, 64th Year, 6176th Meeting, UN Doc S/Res/1882 (2009).

[4] In October 2001, with the release of the report Health Care in Danger: Making the case, the International Committee of the Red Cross signalled the launch of a "... major campaign to raise awareness of this pressing issue, and mobilizing a community of concern. This global initiative will last four years and aims at making a crucial difference for people affected on the ground." In February 2010, meanwhile, the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack began organising similar activities to encourage better protection for education in conflict.

[5] For more on these community self-protection strategies, see Self-Protection Under Strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State, KHRG, August 2010.

[6] Note that the MRM field manual has not been updated since the adoption of UNSCR 1998 on July 12th 2011.

[7] "Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on Grave Violations Against Children in Situations of Armed Conflict," MRM Field Manual O/SRSG-CAAC-UNICEF-DPKO, April 2010, 1-54, 11.

[8] Attacks on Health and Education: Trends and incidents from eastern Burma, 2010-2011, KHRG, December 2011.

[9] UNSCR 1998, paragraph 4.

[10] The guidance provided in the 2010 MRM field manual, drafted prior to the adoption of UNSCR 1998, also explicitly allows for monitoring and reporting on any action that interferes with "the normal operation of" an educational or medical facility. The guidance cites three specific activities as examples, but indicates that these are non-exhaustive by including a fourth broad category of activities "otherwise causing harm to schools or medical facilities or its personnel." "Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on Grave Violations Against Children in Situations of Armed Conflict," MRM Field Manual O/SRSG-CAAC-UNICEF-DPKO, April 2010, 1-54, 11

[11] Examples of such analysis, applied to 16 recently-documented attacks in eastern Burma, is undertaken in the recent KHRG report, Attacks on Health and Education: Trends and incidents from eastern Burma, 2010-2011, KHRG, December 2011.

[12] UNSCR 1998, paragraph 4.

[13] Further analysis of this incident can be found in: Attacks on Health and Education: Trends and incidents from eastern Burma, 2010-2011, KHRG, December 2011.

[14] In her reports to the Security Council, the Secretary General's Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict has repeatedly noted that access restrictions have prevented her from effectively monitoring and reporting on grave violations of children's rights in eastern Burma. Children and armed conflict: Report of the Secretary-General, A/65/820–S/2011/250, April 2011. See paragraph 111, noting restrictions on access. See paragraph 112, noting attacks in February 2010 that forced the closure of 13 schools and destroyed a high school, nursery school and a clinic. The SRSG began noting such restrictions in her first report on Burma. See, Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar, S/2007/666, November 2007. Paragraph 36 and 37, noting that "Credible reports indicat[e] that during the period 2006-2007 Government armed forces in Kayin state attacked villagers… These reports, however, cannot be confirmed owing to lack of access to conflict-affected areas."

[15] Further analysis of this incident can be found in the incident description accompanying explanation of Type 2 attacks in Table 1 of the report: Attacks on Health and Education: Trends and incidents from eastern Burma, 2010-2011, KHRG, December 2011.