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NGO calls on the UN to support resolution on human rights in Myanmar

Refugees in front of their temporary shelter near Lung Byeng village, Waimaw township in Kachin state. Photo: Hkun Lat/AFP

By Mizzima

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a strong resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

In a press release issued on February 24, the NGO called on Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council to take action over what it called the “serious human rights crisis” in Myanmar.

The following is an abridged version of the letter sent by HRW to the United Nations:

We write on behalf of Human Rights Watch to urge you to support a strong item 4 resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the upcoming 34th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, engaging with the reform benchmarks requested of the Special Rapporteur by HRC resolution 31/24, and establishing an independent, international investigation into alleged violations and abuses in Rakhine State.

This resolution is necessary in light of the serious human rights crisis faced by ethnic Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State; international human rights and humanitarian law violations in Kachin and Shan States; increasing numbers of political prisoners as the result of the prosecution of critics of the government and peaceful protesters; and other serious rights violations.

We urge the Human Rights Council to establish an independent, international investigation into alleged abuses perpetrated in Rakhine State following the October 9, 2016 attacks by militants on state security forces. Human Rights Watch has documented widespread and serious abuses against Rohingya civilians by the security forces, including extrajudicial killings, systematic rape and other sexual violence, and the burning of numerous Rohingya villages.

The need for an international investigation is clear in light of the government’s continued failure to carry out credible investigations of its own. On December 1, the government announced the creation of a committee to investigate the situation in Rakhine State and to report by January 31, 2017. However, the committee’s composition and mandate raised serious doubts that it would conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into alleged abuses. The committee’s interim report, released on January 3, dismissed allegations of rape, rejected evidence of serious abuses and religious persecution, and said there were no cases of malnutrition—contrary to the findings of the UN, Human Rights Watch, and others. On January 31, a statement issued by the Myanmar President’s Office said the committee had requested more time before submitting its final report. No new deadline has been set. On February 6, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide said that the scale of violence against the Rohingya community reflected “a level of dehumanization and cruelty that is revolting and unacceptable,” and underlined that the government-appointed committee is “not a credible option” to carry out investigations.

At a minimum, the HRC resolution should:

1. Renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar under item 4 for a further period of one year;
2. Establish an independent, international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State, including reports of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, burning and destruction of houses, forced displacement, and other serious violations;
3. Call on Myanmar authorities to:

  • Cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and members of the international investigation, authorize them to conduct visits to the country, and provide them with unfettered access to all areas of the country necessary to carry out their mandate;
  • Cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including by keeping its 2012 commitment “to extend an invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Myanmar.” The office should have a full protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate;
  • Immediately cease abusive tactics by the security forces, especially in northern Rakhine State during “clearance operations” and in Shan and Kachin States;
  • Immediately allow unfettered access by humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to all areas in need in Myanmar, in particular northern Rakhine State, and to all areas of Shan and Kachin states;
  • End restrictions on access to humanitarian assessment teams, journalists, and independent human rights observers in all areas of Myanmar, in particular Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States;
  • End the persecution of the Rohingya, including by amending the discriminatory provisions of the 1982 Citizenship Law;
  • End restrictions on freedom of movement that severely impact the rights to health care and livelihood of Rohingya in Rakhine State and facilitate the return of the 120,000 still-displaced persons from the 2012 violence that amounted to ethnic cleansing; o Repeal the four discriminatory, anti-Muslim race and religion laws;
  • Release all political prisoners;
  • End the use of criminal law, such as section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act and sections 141-147 and 505 of the Penal Code, to prosecute and imprison individuals for peaceful speech and assembly;
  • Repeal or amend other laws, as appropriate, to conform to international standards for the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and other fundamental rights;
  • Reform the prisons so that the treatment of detainees and prisoners conform with international standards; and
  • Continue to take credible steps to address the harmful human rights and development impacts of widespread land confiscations under the previous military governments.

4. Engage with the benchmarks report requested of the Special Rapporteur by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 31/24, and request that the Special Rapporteur work with the government to develop an implementation plan to meet the reform benchmarks.

We stand ready to answer any questions and look forward to your support at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council in order to safeguard the rights of all people in Myanmar and support progress toward meaningful human rights reform.