May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11)
The World Council of Churches has observed with grave concern the recurrences of military coups this year, especially in Myanmar in February 2021 and in Sudan in October 2021. The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland on 12-17 November 2021, laments the renewed resort to military force to interrupt the democratic trajectory in these countries, and to subvert the aspirations and rights of the peoples of Myanmar and Sudan.
The military coups in both countries have been accompanied by the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilian political leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, lack of due process for those arrested, the disproportionate and deadly use of force against protestors, and restrictions on independent media and access to information – all so sadly characteristic of repressive military regimes of the past, that should have been consigned to history.
The actions by the military leaders of Myanmar and Sudan constitute an unconscionable assault on the democratic transition and on the people of both countries. The military coup in Myanmar has undone a decade of hard-won democratic and human rights gains, while the military takeover in Sudan has betrayed the revolution of 2019 and the country's own Constitutional Document and other foundational documents of the transition.
Both countries had been beacons of progress for their respective regions. The restoration of civilian rule, and a return to the path of legal and institutional reform for the fulfilment of the people's aspirations to democracy, the rule of law and human rights, therefore carries importance far beyond the borders of these two countries.
The executive committee therefore:
- Urges the military authorities to hand back the control that they have illegitimately seized, and to return their respective countries to the paths from which they have improperly been diverted.
- Calls on the military authorities in Myanmar and Sudan to refrain from excessive use of force against protestors and to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression – among other fundamental human rights and freedoms – reminding them that they are bound by and subject to accountability under international human rights and humanitarian law.
- Appeals for the immediate release of all those who have been arbitrarily arrested, denied due process, and who remain in detention.
- Calls for the military authorities to allow unconditional and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas and all people affected by conflict and violence in Myanmar and Sudan.
- Urges the members of the international community to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by the military authorities of Myanmar and Sudan, to recognize the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate democratically-elected representatives of the people of Myanmar, and to work for the swift return to civilian-led governments and a resumption of the democratic transition in both Myanmar and Sudan.