Coups have no place in modern world: UN chief

Yoshita Singh
·3-min read

United Nations, Feb 22 (PTI) Coups have no place in the modern world, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday as he called on the military in Myanmar to stop the repression immediately, release prisoners and respect human rights as well as the will of the people expressed in the recent elections.

In a video message to the 46th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, Guterres referred to the situation in Myanmar, where the military has seized power and detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other top political leaders in the bloodless coup.

'We see the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations. Restrictions of civic space. Attacks on civil society. Serious violations against minorities with no accountability, including what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population. The list goes on,' he said.

'It is all coming together in a perfect storm of upheaval,' he added.

Guterres reiterated his call to the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately. 'Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections.' 'Coups have no place in our modern world,' he said, adding that he fully supports the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

Guterres noted that the COVID-19 virus is also infecting political and civil rights and further shrinking civic space.

'Using the pandemic as a pretext, authorities in some countries have deployed heavy-handed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalise basic freedoms, silence independent reporting and curtail the activities of non-governmental organisations,' he said.

Guterres voiced concern that human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, political activists — and even medical professionals — are being detained, prosecuted and subjected to intimidation and surveillance for criticizing government pandemic responses — or the lack thereof.

'Pandemic-related restrictions are being used to subvert electoral processes, weaken opposition voices and suppress criticism. At times, access to life-saving COVID-19 information has been concealed-while deadly misinformation has been amplified — including by those in power,” he said.

Emphasising the urgent need for action, Guterres called for joint efforts to combat the 'blight of racism, discrimination and xenophobia' as well as gender inequality.

'These evils are fed by two of the deepest wells of injustice in our world: the legacy of centuries of colonialism; and the persistence, across the millennia, of patriarchy.

'The linkages between racism and gender inequality are also unmistakable. Some of the worst impacts of both are in the overlaps and intersections of discrimination suffered by women from racial and ethnic minority groups,' he said.

Further, Guterres added that stoking the fires of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, violence against some minority Christian communities, homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny is nothing new.

'It has just become more overt, easier to achieve, and globalised. When we allow the denigration of any one of us, we set the precedent for the demonisation of all of us,' he said.

The UN chief called for nations to step up the fight against resurgent neo-Nazism, white supremacy and racially and ethnically motivated terrorism, saying the danger of these hate-driven movements is growing by the day.

'Let us call them what they are: White supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat,' he said, adding that these and other groups have exploited the pandemic to boost their ranks through social polarisation and political and cultural manipulation. PTI YAS ZH ZH