Myanmar

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas H. Andrews (A/76/314)

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Seventy-sixth session
Item 75 (c) of the provisional agenda*
Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights
situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives

Summary

The present report details human rights violations in Myanmar following the military coup against the civilian-led Government on 1 February 2021. Its focus is on the murders, torture and detention of human rights defenders, journalists, civil society members and people from all walks of life who have opposed the junta. It provides information on the junta’s indiscriminate bombing and shelling of towns and villages, attacks against health-care workers during a pandemic, and the dismantling of civil and political rights including freedom of expression and association, the right to privacy, access to justice and a free press.

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur also examines the domestic and international response to these heinous acts. The Special Rapporteur warns that, without a change of course, the current trajectory of developments in Myanmar points to protracted authoritarianism, an even greater loss of life, a humanitarian disaster and a failed State that is a threat not only to the people of Myanmar, but to the region and the world.

Finally, the Special Rapporteur urges the United Nations and its Member States to apply targeted, sustained pressure on the military junta so that efforts to promote engagement and dialogue will have a greater chance of success. As a representative of a permanent member of the Security Council declared in a public meeting in July: “What are we waiting for? The longer we delay, the more people die.”

1. Introduction

1. In the seven months since Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his accomplices in the Myanmar military violently overthrew the Government in an illegal coup d’état, the people of Myanmar have endured widespread, systematic attacks at the hands of the Myanmar police and military. This includes the murder of more than 1,000 people, the arbitrary detention of over 7,000 and the displacement of over 200,000. The brutal campaign of the military junta likely meets the threshold for crimes against humanity and war crimes under international law, and the architects and perpetrators should be held accountable.

2. The present report details the human rights violations committed in Myanmar from March to August 2021. It focuses on the murders, torture and detention of human rights defenders, journalists, civil society members and people from all walks of life who have stood up to the junta. It provides information on the junta’s indiscriminate bombing and shelling of towns and villages, attacks against health-care workers during a pandemic, and ongoing assaults on the fundamental rights to speech, assembly, association and health. Annex 1 provides additional details on human rights and the deepening crisis in Myanmar.

3. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur also examines domestic and international responses to these heinous acts. The people of Myanmar have demonstrated remarkable courage and tenacity in their opposition to the coup and the military’s ongoing assaults and repression. Most are profoundly disappointed at how the international community has responded. As a representative of a permanent member of the Security Council said in a public meeting in July: “What are we waiting for? The longer we delay, the more people die. This Council is failing in our collective responsibility to safeguard international peace and security. And it is failing the people of Burma.” The Special Rapporteur could not agree more.

4. The junta’s attacks on health-care professionals and the collapse of the healthcare system in Myanmar described in the present report continue even as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic spreads. Indeed, the deteriorating conditions in Myanmar are precisely those that enable the rapid spread of the virus and, with it, the opportunity for the development of even more contagious and deadlier variants, such as the Delta variant that continues to spread among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. More than a third of humanity lives in countries that border Myanmar, which means that not only are the junta’s systematic attacks against its citizens a national security issue for Myanmar, but they also pose a threat to the peace and security of the region and, indeed, the world.

5. The mandate holder believes that the current trajectory and pace of these developments within Myanmar, and the response of the international community, will lead to the further deterioration of conditions for the people of Myanmar and an even graver threat to the region and the world. He urges United Nations Member States to conduct a critical reassessment of the international response and consider alternatives that can augment and complement formal United Nations mechanisms. Alternatives are outlined in the recommendations section of the present report.

6. The mandate holder is deeply grateful to those who provided information and insight for the present report, including many in Myanmar who did so at significant risk to themselves and their families. The Special Rapporteur engaged, primarily through teleconferences, with representatives of concerned Member States, international and regional organizations, national and international civil society organizations, journalists, trade unionists, activists and human rights defenders, the National Unity Government and members of the business community. The mandate holder also actively participated in various events organized by national and regional parliaments, national human rights institutions and civil society organizations.

7. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur draws on several verbatim accounts and statements provided by Myanmar witnesses and victims. The voices of those in Myanmar are often inaccessible or ignored, and too often the truth about conditions in the country is conveyed only quantitatively. It is vitally important to understand developments in terms of their impact on real individuals, families and communities.