Hears Presentation of Oral Updates on Burundi under Agenda Item 2 and on Georgia under Agenda Item 10
4 July 2018
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on the human rights situation of the Rohingya people. It also heard presentations by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore on Burundi and on Georgia.
Presenting his oral update, the High Commissioner said that in recent months, Myanmar had challenged allegations that its security forces had engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign which had caused over 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. The authorities had also expended a lot of energy and effort to convince the world that they were ready and willing to allow the refugees to return. To ensure a credible investigation, the High Commissioner urged the Government of Myanmar to grant immediate access to Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The Security Council was urged to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council was requested to recommend to the General Assembly the establishment of a new international, impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the fact-finding mission.
Myanmar, speaking as a concerned country, said that many of the allegations in the address by the High Commissioner were flawed, incorrect and misleading, thereby resulting in perceptions that aggravated the whole situation. The situation was extremely complex and involved terrorism, rule of law, illegal migration, and other factors. The terrorist group called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army had committed heinous and shocking atrocities. Myanmar was disturbed that the High Commissioner had failed to mention these atrocities. The root cause of the tragedy was terrorism, and terrorism could not be condoned under any circumstances. Myanmar was doing its utmost to repatriate the displaced persons as soon as possible. It called for a constructive approach on the complexity of the challenges in Rakhine state. The international community could best help by understanding the prevailing situation objectively and supporting the long-term reconciliation and sustained socio-economic development in Rakhine state.
In the interactive dialogue, speakers expressed concern over the deterioration of the situation, and deplored the widespread and systematic attacks against the Rohingya community. They were disturbed by the reports of the abduction and rape of women and girls, as well as the burning of homes, torture and other atrocities. Speakers called on the Government to put an immediate end to the violence and ensure accountability. They also called for immediate access to humanitarian workers, and emphasised the need for refugees and displaced persons to be allowed to return home. Speakers also called for the necessity to address the root causes of the conflict. They encouraged the cooperation of the Government of Myanmar with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and reiterated the call of the High Commissioner for the establishment of an International Accountability Mechanism. Finally, many commended the efforts of Bangladesh to host the refugees. They also hailed the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and the United Nations, which offered hope and urged Myanmar to abide by its commitments.
Speaking were European Union, Pakistan on behalf of Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Maldives, Qatar, Finland, Brazil, Pakistan, Jordan, Libya, Croatia, Kuwait, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, France, Iraq, Denmark, Australia, Spain, Netherlands, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Sweden, Turkey, Iceland, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran.
Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development; Human Rights Now; Minority Rights Group International; International Commission of Jurists; Amnesty International; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia and Human Rights Watch.
The Council then heard Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore present oral updates relating to Burundi under agenda item 2 on the annual report of the High Commissioner, and Georgia under agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.
Ms. Gilmore said the human right situation in Burundi continued to deteriorate. Restrictions on civic space and proposed constitutional revisions had generated a host of human rights concerns. There were increased reports of activities by armed groups linked to the ruling party’s youth wing. Arbitrary arrests were used as tools of intimidation in the lead up to the constitutional referendum. The Government of Burundi was not cooperating in the implementation of resolution 36/2 by cancelling the visas of experts being deployed to the country.
Regarding Georgia, Ms. Gilmore welcomed progress towards passing legislation on establishing a mechanism to investigate alleged violations by law enforcement agencies and on policy steps to combat domestic violence. She added that further steps were needed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and achieve effective accountability for ill-treatment. The Office of the High Commissioner counted on its partnership with authorities and civil society to continue addressing these issues.
Burundi, speaking as a concerned country, said it had wholeheartedly welcomed resolution 36/2 initiated by the African Group. It deplored however, that the implementation of this resolution had been characterized by a lack of transparency and cooperation by the High Commissioner. Burundi was concerned by the relentlessness of the European Union and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in connection with this resolution.
Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, said that once again the occupying power and its regime had denied the Office of the High Commissioner access to Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions, completely disregarding the Council’s resolution on cooperation with Georgia. The Georgian Government had introduced a new peace initiative to facilitate trade across dividing lines to improve living prospects of people living in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. However, without objective international monitoring, the situation would only worsen, so immediate access to the Office of the High Commissioner had to be ensured.
The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 5 July to hold general debates on agenda item 2 on the annual report of the High Commissioner and on agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building. It will then start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions before it concludes its thirty-eighth regular session on Friday, 6 July.
Opening Remarks by the President of the Human Rights
VOJISLAV ŠUC, President of the Human Rights Council, said that in its resolution S-27/1 adopted during the twenty-seventh special session, the Council requested the High Commissioner to track progress concerning the human rights situation of Rohingya people and provide an oral update to the Council.
Oral Update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Myanmar
ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that in recent months, Myanmar had challenged allegations that its security forces had engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign which had caused over 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. The authorities had also expended a lot of energy and effort to convince the world that they were ready and willing to allow the refugees to return. In January, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the physical arrangement for repatriation, and in May the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Myanmar Government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme to assist repatriation from Bangladesh and to create conducive conditions for return. It was announced that a Commission of Inquiry would be established to investigate human rights violations. Still, not a single Rohingya refugee had returned under the formal framework. Those that had returned on their own had been detained and 58 had been convicted on unspecified charges.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees continued to flee Rakhine state and there had been 11,432 new arrivals in Bangladesh since mid-June. During interviews given to the Office of the High Commissioner, they described violence, persecution and killings. Myanmar repeatedly stated that the root cause of the crisis was the alleged attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on several police posts. This was misleading as the persecution of Rohingya started way earlier. Since at least 1978, the concomitant campaign to erode the legal personality and rights of Rohingya had steadily intensified. The 1982 citizenship law provided for citizenship primarily on the basis of ethnicity. In 1989, the Rohingya had to hand over the national registration cards which they had had since 1951, in exchange of citizenship scrutiny cards, which they had never obtained. In 2015, with a national election approaching, the temporary registration certificates, provided in 1995, were revoked, disenfranchising almost 800,000 persons. The latest form of documentation required of the Rohingya was the national verification card, which did not grant citizenship.
Many refugees interviewed by the Office of the High Commissioner said unbearable pressure had been placed on them to accept the national verification card. Myanmar’s sincerity towards the repatriation process would not be measured by the number of agreements it signed but by its recognition that Rohingya were citizens, with the same rights as other citizens. One mark of genuine intent would be to grant citizenship to some 120,000 internally displaced persons. Myanmar had a pattern of investigative whitewashing, including following the violent conflagrations of 2012 and 2016. The military had absolved itself of its responsibility for the past violence and only admitted responsibility for a massacre in Inn Din village when confronted by Reuters with incontrovertible evidence. Another internal inquiry would again whitewash terrible crimes that had occurred.
To ensure a credible investigation, the Government had to grant immediate access to Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The Security Council was urged to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council was requested to recommend to the General Assembly the establishment of a new international, impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the fact-finding mission. Such a mechanism would also develop a framework for the reintegration of the Rohingya, who had to be included in the discussions on their own future. The refusal to name the Rohingya as such, including in official documents at the Council, added disrespect to the violations they had suffered.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said finding a sustainable solution to the issue of Rakhine was one of the Government’s top priorities. While the situation in northern Rakhine had been the focus of much international attention, the narrative related to it had, very sadly, been incomplete and misleading. Unverified allegations had been reported as facts, resulting in perceptions that aggravated the whole situation. Myanmar noted that many points in the High Commissioner’s address were flawed. Myanmar had been ready to receive the verified returnees since January 2018, and still awaited the official communication from Bangladesh. It had also made its utmost efforts to verify over 1,400 people out of 8,032 people. Much of the information contained in the High Commissioner’s statement was distorted or exaggerated. The misinformation could lead to imprecise memories. In some cases, it could even result in false memories that caused unjust convictions. The incorrect information would also mislead the readers, particularly Member States, to make wrong decisions.
The situation in Rakhine state, particularly in northern Rakhine, was extremely complex. It was a challenge of enormous dimension involving issues, inter alia, of sovereignty, territorial integrity, terrorism, rule of law, human rights, and illegal migration. The security situation in northern Rakhine had deteriorated sharply, following the attacks on the police outposts in Maungtaw Township by the terrorist group called ARSA, in August 2017. The recent revelations of the massacre of 99 Hindus committed by ARSA on the same day of the attack on the security outposts was shocking. Myanmar was disturbed by the fact that the High Commissioner had conveniently failed to mention such a heinous terrorist attack in his address. With the arrival of the monsoon season, the humanitarian situation in the camps would be getting severe. Myanmar was doing its utmost to repatriate the verified displaced persons as soon as possible in order to avoid yet another humanitarian disaster. It called for a constructive approach on the complexity of the challenges in Rakhine state. The international community could best help by understanding the prevailing situation objectively and supporting the long-term reconciliation and sustained socio-economic development in Rakhine state.
Interactive Discussion on Myanmar
European Union said information provided by United Nations entities pointed to a widespread and systematic attack against the Rohingya community and to attacks by militant groups. There was a need to assure accountability. Against the backdrop of violations and lack of access for mandate holders, the European Union asked how remedy for victims could be guaranteed. Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noted that despite bilateral reparation agreements, not a single Rohingya had been allowed to return home. The recent Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and the United Nations offered hope and Myanmar must abide by its commitments. Myanmar was called on to grant unhindered access to United Nations agencies. Maldives said accounts of gross human rights violations in Myanmar could not be ignored. Women and girls had been victims of horrific sexual violence. Thousands had been forced to leave their homes. Myanmar must give full and unfettered access to United Nations entities to Rakhine state. Bangladeshi efforts to host the refugees were commended.
Qatar expressed concern over the deterioration of the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The Government must put an end to the violence and engage in dialogue to foster peace and stability. Refugees and displaced persons must be allowed to return home and humanitarian assistance must be allowed in Rakhine state. Finland was appalled by reports indicating that systematic attacks continued to target Rohingyas in Rakhine state. Reports of the abduction and rape of women and girls were disturbing. The Government had a responsibility to protect Rohingyas. Finland asked how the international community could help ensure accountability for human rights violations. Brazil remained deeply concerned over the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from Rakhine state. It was essential to address the root causes of the conflict, and the issue of statelessness was a clear priority. Brazil welcomed agreements on the repatriation of displaced persons in Rakhine state.
Pakistan noted that humanitarian access to Rohingya in Myanmar remained limited due to the denial of access to the United Nations humanitarian agencies. As a country hosting refugees for decades, Pakistan appreciated the efforts of Bangladesh in providing shelter to Rohingya and urged the international community to ensure greater assistance. Jordan called for the cooperation of the Government of Myanmar with the Office of the High Commissioner. Concern was voiced over barbaric acts of killings and torture, amounting to violations of international law, and leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of Rohingya. Libya welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointment of the new Special Envoy on Myanmar. Rohingya Muslims were tortured, killed, their women raped, all while the international community remained silent.
Croatia joined the Secretary-General in his praise for Bangladesh for helping refugees who were living a humanitarian nightmare. The appalling scale of rape was documented in the report, pointing to tens of thousands of Rohingya refugee women left pregnant by the systematic campaign by the military. Kuwait placed emphasis on reducing the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Rakhine state out of which 120,000 persons had fled. Since last October, Kuwait was the Chair of the Donor Conference and as a member of the Security Council was insisting on making the Rohingya issue a priority. Belgium was co-sponsor of the resolution requesting the High Commissioner to track progress and noted his call to establish an international accountability mechanism. How could the memorandum of understanding on repatriation be implemented in a transparent way, respecting human rights?
Switzerland urged Myanmar to normalize relations with all human rights mechanisms. It was appalled by the serious human rights violations and abuses which called for the creation of an Independent Commission of Inquiry. In order to guarantee a safe, voluntary and dignified return, it was indispensable to provide access to humanitarian agencies. Japan noted the importance of taking into consideration the humanitarian needs of the displaced Rohingya during the rainy season. Japan appreciated the efforts that Bangladesh had made in this regard. It expected Myanmar to work with increased speed and considered as a positive step the establishment by Myanmar of an Independent Commission of Inquiry. France said the situation in “Burma” was not improving and was not just a humanitarian crisis. Rohingyas continued to be subjected to serious human rights violations in “Burma”. Testimonies had revealed atrocities committed by the authorities. It was crucial to shed light on the human rights violations and restore humanitarian access to those in need.
Iraq was deeply concerned about the human rights violations and the crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya. It was regrettable that this community continued to be subjected to racial, religious and other grounds of discrimination. Over the past year, none of the internally displaced persons had been able to return home. Denmark was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Myanmar and was shocked by the atrocities committed by the Myanmar security forces that had led to over 700,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh. It called for a full, objective investigation, by an Independent Commission of Inquiry. Australia said the widespread abuses were deeply concerning and demanded a thorough and independent investigation. It urged Myanmar to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur without delay and welcomed the establishment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry by Myanmar. Australia was willing to work with Myanmar to create conditions for the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of all Rohingya.
Spain noted with concern that human rights violations and abuses persisted in Rakhine state. Recent information about the sexual violence was alarming. Rohingya children forced to flee from home were particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses. The return of refugees must be safe and voluntary, and must comply with international law. Netherlands said the Rohingya had suffered from a long history of systematic human rights violations. United Nations entities had reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Myanmar. The Government must take steps to prosecute human rights violators. The Netherlands asked how the international community could help prevent impunity. Tunisia said the continuation of the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar was reason enough for the Human Rights Council to prioritise the matter. The international community must take practical measures to force the Government of Myanmar to protect its people and investigate all human rights violations.
Indonesia said bilateral repatriation efforts had not led to clear progress. Myanmar must facilitate the return of Rohingyas to Rakhine state in a safe and dignified way. Indonesia took note of the National Independent Commission of Inquiry and urged the Government to take action against human rights violators. The situation of refugees in Cox’s Bazar was concerning. Malaysia supported ongoing efforts to assist Myanmar in finding lasting solutions to the plight of the Rohingya community. The Human Rights Council must engage constructively with Myanmar. Steps to implement the Advisory Commission’s recommendations were encouraging. Accountability and justice were integral to resolving the crisis. Canada said much remained to be done to protect the rights of the Rohingya community. Canada had adopted targeted sanctions against individuals involved in the military operations in Rakhine state. Canada asked what measures could be taken to support the implementation of forthcoming recommendations from the High Commissioner.
Azerbaijan regretted that since the signing of the Repatriation Agreement, none among the 720,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh had been able to return as no measures had been taken to address security and safety. The challenges that Bangladesh faced were acknowledged and Azerbaijan stood in solidarity with the people of Bangladesh, who had granted protection to the displaced Rohingya. Bangladesh said it had accepted over 700,000 Rohingyas since last August and its capacity had reached its limit. Despite Myanmar’s many commitments, Rohingya villages had been bulldozed and their lands confiscated and the United Nations had not been let in. United Kingdom said it had contributed 129 million pounds to the Rohingya crisis since August 2017 and was advocating for the safe and voluntary return of refugees. How could the international community support the domestically led accountability process?
Sweden said that the special session on the situation in Rakhine state was held while the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing was at the centre of global attention. Crimes against humanity had been committed and a referral to the International Criminal Court had to be considered. Turkey noted with dismay that conditions in Myanmar were not conducive to repatriation. In addition to the refugees in Bangladesh, the voluntary return of internally displaced persons had to be expedited, including 120,000 Rohingya. Ireland welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding but shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern that the voices of refugees were not heard in this process. Deep concern was voiced over the lack of implementation of the Annan Commission recommendations and the detention of journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone.
Egypt followed with deep concern the development of the situation in Rakhine state and most strongly condemned the brutal violations. It called upon the Government of Myanmar to immediately stop the violence and hold perpetrators accountable, as well as to ensure the return of refugees. It also called for the immediate implementation of the agreement signed with Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia strongly condemned all violations of human rights, as well as the prevention of access to humanitarian aid. It was regrettable that the Rohingya minority was being exposed to such discrimination on ethnic, religious, and racial basis. It called on the Government to take steps to address the root causes of discrimination against Rohingya and provide them with a safe return. Lebanon hailed the nomination of the Special Envoy for Myanmar by the Secretary General during the seventy-second session of the General Assembly. It hailed the efforts of Bangladesh, supported the right of Rohingya to return home, and called on Myanmar to respect the signed agreement. Iran said it was highly regrettable that many of the houses of the Rohingya who had fled atrocities, had been burned, and strongly condemned the systematic attacks against the Rohigya Muslims. The Iranian Red Cross and Society had sent food, aid and medical equipment to the Rohingya people. Iran urged the Government of Myanmar to put an end to the violence immediately.
Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said it had followed with concern the acts of detention, displacement and deprivation of fundamental human rights of the Rohingya community. Over 700,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh. It was impossible to visit the refugee camps without a broken heart. It called on the Government of Myanmar to lift the repression, stating that actions were louder the words. Human Rights Now said refugees it had interviewed had reported systematic rape, sexual violence against women and children, and torture among the atrocities committed. Ending impunity by providing accountability for these crimes was an essential step for the safe return of the Rohingya.
Minority Rights Group International said conflict had intensified in Kachin and Shan states. In those areas, civilians were being used as human shields and the military had been conducting indiscriminate shelling. The Government continued to avoid accountability for its actions against the Rohingya community. The root causes of the conflict remained unaddressed. International Commission of Jurists stressed that Myanmar was duty bound to investigate and prosecute human rights violations. Justice must not be further delayed, international accountability mechanisms must be established, and discriminatory laws in Myanmar must be addressed. Human rights violations were the root cause of the humanitarian crisis. Amnesty International said that since last August, the military had killed thousands, raped women and girls, and burned down villages. Abuses were part of a well-orchestrated operation that involved various State security forces. The Human Rights Council was urged to support the immediate United Nations Security Council referral of the case to the International Criminal Court.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the crisis in Rakhine state had deteriorated rapidly and drastically as thousands of civilians had fled systematic human rights abuses. Attacks pointed to an orchestrated campaign to persecute the Rohingya community and render them stateless. The international community must promote the voices of moderation and pursue peace and reconciliation efforts. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia said it had interviewed Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar and received firsthand accounts of human rights violations. Rohingya women and children in refugee camps were at high risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Violence and persecution continued in Rakhine state. Human Rights Watch said the Rohingya crisis continued unabated. Around 500,000 Rohingya remained in Rakhine state, effectively as prisoners in their own villages. Myanmar was unwilling to address the root causes of the conflict. Rohingya refugees were languishing in overcrowded camps.
ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that there had been a remarkable congruence of opinion concerning the report. In response to the delegation of Myanmar, that had talked of the Government of Myanmar defending the human rights of all, he said they had to have some shame and not make absurd statements. Action had been taken to explore the possibility of engaging the International Criminal Court concerning territorial jurisdiction in respect to the crime of deportation. The fact-finding mission would submit its report in a matter of weeks. Until that report, he appealed to Myanmar to allow the Council’s mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner access to northern Rakhine state. It was ludicrous to create another investigative mechanism and continue with unconvincing techniques of whitewashing. If the Government was serious, it had to allow the human rights mechanisms in. If the Security Council referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, then jurisdiction across a whole wide category of offenses would be established. In the absence of such a possibility, at the very least, countries willing and able to exercise universal jurisdiction would be better placed to do so if there was an international, impartial and independent mechanism in place.
Concerning the Memorandum of Understanding, which several delegations had asked about, he said despite asking for it, the Office of the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur had no copy of it. The conditions for return would not be safe unless the Council’s mechanisms and his Office had access to northern Rakhine so that they could establish that the conditions were safe. Finally, in closing, the High Commissioner said since this was the last time that he would address the Human Rights Council in formal session, barring any special sessions, he asked if a Member State of the Council could force 700,000 people out of its country within three weeks with minimal response from the international community, then how many other States in this chamber were beginning to entertain something similar? The Council was appealed to think seriously about this.
Presentation by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights of Oral Updates on Burundi and Georgia
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the human right situation in Burundi continued to deteriorate. Restrictions on civic space and proposed constitutional revisions had generated a host of human rights concerns. There were increased reports of activities by armed groups linked to the ruling party’s youth wing. Arbitrary arrests were used as tools of intimidation in the lead up to the constitutional referendum. The Government of Burundi was not cooperating in the implementation of resolution 36/2 by cancelling the visas of experts being deployed to the country. The Government recently reiterated its willingness to cooperate with the High Commissioner’s Office. However, Burundi was yet to materially demonstrate its willingness to restore full cooperation. Ms. Gilmore urged the Government of Burundi to resume its engagement with international human rights bodies.
Turning to Georgia, Ms. Gilmore said technical assistance was being provided to the country. Ms. Gilmore welcomed progress towards passing legislation on establishing a mechanism to investigate alleged violations by law enforcement agencies and on policy steps to combat domestic violence. Further steps were needed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and achieve effective accountability for ill-treatment. The Office of the High Commissioner counted on its partnership with the authorities and civil society to continue addressing these issues. Resolution 37/40 called for the Office of the High Commissioner to access Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, access was yet to be granted by the authorities in control. People in those regions were adversely affected by political divergences ensuing from past conflicts. Restrictions of freedom of movement remained the most visible and pressing concern in both regions. Access to the territories was important to ensure an objective analysis of the human rights situation on the ground.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Burundi, speaking as a concerned country, said the present dialogue concerned the implementation of resolution 36/2 initiated by the African Group and adopted by the Human Rights Council at its thirty-sixth session, on 27 September 2017 – a resolution which had been wholeheartedly welcomed by Burundi. Since this date, the implementation of this resolution by the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been characterized by a lack of transparency and cooperation. In addition to this, Burundi remained preoccupied by the relentlessness of the European Union and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi in connection with this resolution. Indeed, it was very surprising to note that the same European Union that had voted against resolution 36/2, then asked for its swift implementation. How could it be explained that the President of the Commission of Inquiry, who had been denied access to the territory for obvious and known reasons, then became the champion of the rapid implementation of this resolution, at a time when the two mechanisms were divergent? Since the end of April 2018, there had been a campaign against Burundi, alleging that it had refused to implement the recommendations. However, all were aware of the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had an office in Burundi. Burundi had never prohibited the issuing of visas to the employees thereof.
In March 2018, Burundi had been asked for visas for three persons, who thereafter asked for an extension. Burundi had been surprised to receive a letter by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights congratulating it for having facilitated the deployment of a team of experts who had arrived in the framework of resolution 36/2. First of all, the missions of the team of three experts to be dispatched to Burundi by the High Commissioner were clearly defined by resolution 36/2 adopted by the Human Rights Council. Second, the missions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi were defined by a Memorandum of Understanding between Burundi and the Office. Thirdly, having in mind that these missions were different, it was unknown how the deployment of personnel of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, could be confused with that of experts in the framework of the Human Rights Council, on a given country, namely Burundi.
Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, said that once again the occupying power and its regime had denied the Office of the High Commissioner access to Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions, completely disregarding the Council’s resolution on cooperation with Georgia. The occupied regions were black holes, inaccessible for the international community and without a mechanism to assess the human rights situation. Georgian internally displaced person Archil Tatunsahvili had been arbitrary detained and murdered by the Russian occupation regime in Tskhinvali. In March, the Georgian Parliament had adopted a resolution tasking the Government to elaborate the list of individuals who had been charged with or were convicted of grave human rights violations in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. The list included 33 persons, did not include political figures, and its aim was to deter ethnic discrimination. The main aim of the resolution was to seek international restrictive measures to be imposed on persons on the list. The demolition of the houses of the internally displaced in Tskhinvali under the so-called Russian investment programme continued, as well as the deprivation of the local population of medical services, property, education and freedom of movement. The Georgian Government had introduced a new peace initiative to facilitate trade across the dividing lines to improve the living prospects of people living in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. However, without objective international monitoring, the situation would only worsen, so immediate access to the Office of the High Commissioner had to be ensured.
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