Myanmar

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar to the Human Rights Council: there is a Compelling Case that the Military Junta in Myanmar is Committing Crimes against Humanity

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Council Concludes the General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights

AFTERNOON

The Human Right Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who said that the crisis in Myanmar had become even graver with the continuing commission of mass atrocity crimes and a deadly escalation of armed conflict.

Thomas H. Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that since 1 February, the military junta and its forces had murdered more than 1,100 people, arbitrarily detained more than 8,000, and forcibly displaced more than 230,000 civilians, bringing the total number of internally placed persons in Myanmar to well over half a million.

The junta had killed protesters in the streets, murdered civilians in their homes, beaten individuals to death, and tortured people to death while in detention, said Mr. Andrews. It continued to deny the existence of the Rohingya ethnic minority while denying them citizenship, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights. The junta had, in sum, directed its forces to engage in widespread and systematic attacks against the people of Myanmar. There was therefore a compelling case that the military junta was committing crimes against humanity.

He said that nations that were willing to support Myanmar’s citizen sanctions should do so in a coordinated, sustained programme of targeted economic sanctions and a comprehensive embargo of weapons and dual use technology. The international community must make a stronger commitment to ensure that lifesaving aid reached those in need.

In the discussion with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, some speakers called on Myanmar to resume immediate cooperation with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and grant unrestricted access throughout the country. They urged the Special Rapporteur to dedicate his full attention to the situation of Rohingyas, irrespective of the political situation in Myanmar, and continue to focus on concrete measures to ameliorate the sufferings of Rohingyas in all circumstances. Some speakers expressed serious concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation in Myanmar, aggravated by the COVID19 pandemic, and called on Myanmar to abide by its international humanitarian and human rights obligations.

One speaker said that the promulgation and application of unilateral coercive measures against any country were in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, and that they posed negative impacts on populations, including the human rights of peoples and individuals who wished to realise their economic and social rights. Humanitarian assistance and the issue of public health should be de-politicised.

Speaking in the discussion were: European Union, Pakistan, Sweden, Liechtenstein, France, Australia, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Venezuela, United States, Russian Federation, Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Namibia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Philippines, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Timor-Leste, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Brunei Darussalam, Maldives and Iran.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: CIVICUS, Human Rights Now, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Centre Against Censorship, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Commission of Jurists, and Legal Action Worldwide.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Some speakers expressed support for the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in all relevant United Nations meetings on issues that affected them. Some speakers drew attention to the well-being of minorities, as, they stated, the treatment of minorities was the litmus test for Sustainable Development Goal 16.1. Speakers also expressed deep concern that civil society representatives and human rights defenders were increasingly subjected to harassment, threats and violence, both online and offline, aimed at preventing them from working with UN entities. Speakers also raised human rights violations in specific countries and regions.

Taking the floor in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, American Association of Jurists, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, World Muslim Congress, Partners For Transparency, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social, Iraqi Development Organization, Ingenieurs du Monde, CIVICUS, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Association Internationale pour l'égalité des femmes, European Centre for Law and Justice, Il Cenacolo, Rahbord World Evangelical Alliance, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, Elizka Relief Foundation, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Villages Unis, The Next Century Foundation, Conseil de jeunesse pluriculturelle, Health and Environment Program, and Escuela del Estudio de la Intuición Enseñanza de Valores.

China, Azerbaijan and Cuba spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 September, to hold an interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her report on Myanmar. This will be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, started in the morning meeting and a summary can be found here.

General Debate

Some speakers regretted that indigenous human rights defenders continued to face high risks when carrying out their work, particularly those whose efforts involved protecting lands and territories as well as the environment, and those cooperating with the United Nations. They also expressed their support for the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions in all relevant United Nations meetings on issues that affected them. Some speakers drew attention to the well-being of minorities, as, they stated, the treatment of minorities was the litmus test for Sustainable Development Goal 16.1. In an increasingly globalised society, minority issues should be considered in a global perspective and not just in a country-specific point of view. More specifically on religious minorities, some speakers mentioned having witnessed increasing restrictions on, and stigmatisation of, religious minorities. They regretted that the plight of religious minorities was under-reported in the United Nations system.

Some speakers expressed deep concern that **civil society representatives and human rights defenders **were increasingly subjected to harassment, threats and violence, both online and offline, aimed at preventing them from working with United Nations entities and even punishing them. Particular concerns were expressed about the targeting of women human rights defenders and environmental human rights defenders. Human rights defenders were critical to the functioning of the Council’s mandate, said speakers, calling on the Council to ensure that States that routinely practiced arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were held to account and to ensure that human rights defenders were protected and could continue their vital work. Attacks on **journalists **and other media professionals were regretted. Speakers said that disinformation had become a global topic of concern and had devastating consequences for human rights. They mentioned that in today's world the fundamental right to seek and disseminate information through the press was under attack and that many democracies, which should be press freedom's staunch defenders, had made explicit attempts to silence critical media voices and strengthen outlets that provided favourable coverage.

The rights of children with disabilities, the rights of political prisoners, the right to conscientious objection, as well as a call to the creation of the right to a healthy environment were also among the subjects raised during the general debate. Speakers also raised various violations in specific countries and regions.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

Presentation of Report

THOMAS H. ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that the crisis in Myanmar had become graver, with the continuing commission of mass atrocity crimes and a deadly escalation of armed conflict. Since 1 February, the military junta and its forces had murdered more than 1,100 people, arbitrarily detained more than 8,000, and forcibly displaced more than 230,000 civilians, bringing the total number of internally placed persons in Myanmar to well over half a million. Junta-controlled military forces had killed protesters in the streets, murdered civilians in their homes, beaten individuals to death and tortured people to death while in detention. The junta had also systematically destroyed civil and political rights in Myanmar, dismantling freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to privacy, access to justice, and a free press. Now the junta was increasingly relying on another depraved tactic, the use of collective punishment, including the abduction of family members of those who had been issued arrest warrants, but who police and military forces were unable to locate.

The junta also continued to deny the existence of the Rohingya ethnic minority while denying them citizenship, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights. The Special Rapporteur further explained that the right to health was being undermined by the junta’s assault on the health care system and health care professionals who were working tirelessly and courageously day in and day out to save lives during a pandemic. The junta had, in sum, directed its forces to engage in widespread and systematic attacks against the people of Myanmar. There was therefore a compelling case that the military junta was committing crimes against humanity. Mr. Andrews said that despite the darkness that had descended on Myanmar, rays of light and hope were shining in the form of relentless activists, peaceful protesters, police and military defectors, doctors who continued to care for patients despite the dangers of doing so, and many other courageous people who were committed to saving their country and the future of their children and grandchildren.

The Special Rapporteur said that if coordinated action through the Security Council that targeted the junta’s finances and arms was not a viable option, then action should be taken by Member States that complimented formal United Nations mechanisms. To be effective, nations that were willing to support Myanmar’s citizen sanctions should do so in a coordinated, sustained programme of targeted economic sanctions and a comprehensive embargo of weapons and dual use technology. These proposed actions would be consistent with the demands of the people of Myanmar, including elected officials, and serve as a vital component of a comprehensive package of economic, diplomatic and political action. The international community must make a stronger commitment to ensure that lifesaving aid reached those in need. To that extent, the Member States of the Human Rights Council, could play three critical roles to address this crisis. First, by shining the light of public attention on the crisis in Myanmar as the military junta thrived in darkness and the world needed to know the truth. Second, the besieged people of Myanmar looked to the Council to give voice to their plight and their call for justice within the United Nations. Third, States had a critically important role to play as a catalyst for action, and the people of Myanmar needed strong, targeted and coordinated action by the international community.

Discussion:

Some speakers called on Myanmar to resume immediate cooperation with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and grant unrestricted access throughout the country, as well as to allow the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to visit the country and meet with all stakeholders. They condemned the military coup in Myanmar in the strongest terms and called on the military regime to respect the will of the people expressed in the November 2020 election, restore power to the elected legitimate civilian government, and respect the rule of law. Some speakers said that Myanmar had failed to take any meaningful actions to halt the atrocities perpetrated against Rohingyas since 2017, which they referred to as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. They urged the Special Rapporteur to dedicate his full attention to the situation of Rohingyas, irrespective of the political situation in Myanmar, and continue to focus on concrete measures to ameliorate the sufferings of Rohingyas in all circumstances.

Some speakers called on the military authorities in Myanmar to immediately end all forms of violence and abuses against the people of Myanmar. Concerns about the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the freedom of assembly were expressed. The systematic intimidation and persecution of the people of Myanmar for exercising their human rights must be stopped, and all those arbitrarily detained must be released. Some speakers further condemned the situation faced by journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders, in particular women human rights defenders, who continued to speak out against human rights violations perpetrated by the military in the face of unacceptable threats of sexual and gender-based violence and risks for their safety.

One speaker said that the promulgation and application of unilateral coercive measures against any country were in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, and that they posed negative impacts on populations, including the human rights of peoples and individuals who wished to realise their economic and social rights. Humanitarian assistance and the issue of public health should be de-politicised. If parties could come together to help the Myanmar people in dire need of life-saving assistance, this could provide a basis for much needed trust building. Some speakers strongly supported the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Association of South-East Asian Nations on Myanmar to ensure the concrete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus that was agreed by the Association’s leaders.

Some speakers expressed serious concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation in Myanmar, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and called on Myanmar to abide by its international humanitarian and human rights obligations and cease threats and violence against healthcare workers so that doctors and nurses could provide life-saving care and international organizations could help deliver vaccinations and related medical assistance. Unimpeded humanitarian access must be ensured, they further emphasised, adding that the provision of humanitarian assistance, including assistance related to public health, to the Myanmar people should be the top priority for the international community.

Some speakers supported the efforts of the Association of South-East Asian Nations to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis and called for a prompt visit to Myanmar by the Association’s Special Envoy to conduct his urgent work. They urged the Special Rapporteur to identify opportunities and productive measures in which States and the plethora of mandates and mechanisms on Myanmar could coherently lend practical and constructive assistance to the ongoing efforts of the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

Concluding Remarks

THOMAS H. ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said he appreciated the deep concern that had been expressed about the rights of human rights defenders and those who were trying to provide humanitarian aid. Impunity was one of the single greatest factors that had allowed the great tragedies to recur and continue. It was critical that the international community increased dramatically its humanitarian aid to Myanmar. It was really important to work together to deny any claims of legitimacy of this military junta because they were not legitimate. On sanctions, he believed that they were an important part of any international response to this crisis because they worked, and because the people of Myanmar were calling for them. The people of Myanmar had established their own citizen sanctions, which had taken a toll on revenue streams to the Myanmar junta. The revenue streams needed to be reduced so the junta had fewer opportunities to use their military to continue their reign of terror on the people of Myanmar. The Special Rapporteur said that sanctions were a controversial subject as some believed they might prevent opportunities for dialogue. However, he believed that sanctions and economic pressure could enhance the opportunity for dialogue.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/09/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-entend-lun-de-ses-rapporteurs

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