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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN BURUNDI AND IN MYANMAR

15 June 2017

The Human Rights Council today held an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Fatsah Ouguerouz, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, deeply regretted the absence of response and cooperation from Burundi, especially as Burundi was a member of the Council.  During its investigations, the Commission was struck by the deep and widespread fear running through the testimonies gathered from exiled Burundians.  The violence in Burundi, whether attributed to State agents, Imbonerakure, or armed opposition groups, had persisted since April 2015.  There were continuing reports of disappearances and dead bodies were still being regularly discovered.  The Commission was struck by the particularly cruel and brutal nature of the violations described and by the worrisome testimonies of sexual violence against female relatives of Government opponents.

Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, said Burundi was not a renegade State, it was a decent and respectable State like other members of the United Nations.  Everything being done since 2015 was aimed at destabilizing Burundian institutions, including the recruitment and arming of Burundian refugees in Rwanda.  It was regrettable that the report ignored efforts made by the Burundian Government and its defense and security forces to re-establish peace and security and protect its citizens. 

The Independent National Commission on Human Rights in Burundi also spoke.

In the ensuing debate, some delegations stressed the disturbing nature of allegations of violence and human rights violations in Burundi, notably enforced disappearances, use of torture, arbitrary detention, assassinations and sexual violence.  They urged Burundi to cooperate with mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, especially as the country was a member of the Council.  Other speakers underlined the importance of the avoidance of politicization, selectivity and double standards as well as the need to respect Burundi’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Speaking were the European Union, Estonia, Canada, Greece, United States, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Sudan, Germany, Venezuela, France, China, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Iran, Liechtenstein, Albania, Ireland, United Kingdom, Tanzania, Russian Federation and Uganda. 

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Human Rights Watch, Espace Afrique International, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Amnesty International and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme.

Next, the Council held an interactive dialogue with Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. 

Ms. Lee told the Council that continuing conflict in Kachin, Shan and Chin States had caused more people to flee.  Equally alarming were a number of incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence.  The situation in Rakhine State remained tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture and kidnapping.  While the estimated 20,000 Rohingya who were displaced within Myanmar had mostly returned to their places of origin, returnees faced significant shelter needs due to the large number of homes burnt, a situation exacerbated by the impact of Cyclone Mora.  Whilst some of the reported 74,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh appeared to have now returned, exact numbers were difficult to ascertain.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said it was aware of concern about incidents of incitement to intercommunal tension and religious violence.  Myanmar was making efforts to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.  Myanmar had no intention of keeping internally displaced persons’ camps as “permanent segregation”, but needed more assistance in resettlement and development from the international community.  With regard to the Fact-Finding Mission, Myanmar had dissociated itself from the resolution because it was not in line with the situation on the ground.

In the ensuing debate, delegations generally commended Myanmar’s cooperation with the mechanisms of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Council.  Many, however, tempered their praise with strong concern expressed at remaining challenges.  The situation in the States of Kachin, Shan and Rakhine were singled out for concern.  Calls were also heard for the country to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission.  Some speakers said they rejected politically motivated measures against countries and the adoption of country-specific resolutions that were not universally recognized.  Despite the goodwill of Myanmar, it continued to be subjected to political pressure. 

Speaking were the European Union, Czechia, Estonia, United States, Denmark, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Poland, Spain, Japan, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela, Croatia, France, China, Thailand, Afghanistan, Netherlands, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Turkey, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Ireland, United Kingdom, Maldives, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation, Albania, Belarus and Viet Nam.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights Watch, International Bar Association, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and Amnesty International.

This afternoon, the Council will start its general debate on human rights situations that required the Council’s attention.  

Presentation by the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

FATSAH OUGUERGOUZ, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, recalled that the Commission of Inquiry had been operational for the last four months.  On several occasions, the Commission had intended to meet the Permanent Representative of Burundi in Geneva to establish a dialogue with the Burundian authorities.  Unfortunately, there had not been any response to these approaches.  Mr. Ouguergouz deeply regretted the absence of response and cooperation from Burundi, especially as it was a member of the Council.  The Commission had not been able to visit Burundi but had visited several other countries that were hosting Burundian refugees whose number had reached more than 400,000, or 4 per cent of the total population of Burundi.  The Commission had received 470 testimonies on human rights violations.  The second anniversary of the first demonstrations against President Nkurunziza’s bid in the presidential election, which led to numerous arrests and arbitrary detentions, had been on 26 April.  These violations had increased after the attempted coup d’état in May 2015, and worsened again in December 2015 following attacks against military installations in Bujumbura. 

During its investigations, the Commission had been struck by the deep and widespread fear running through the testimonies gathered from exiled Burundians.  Fear of persecution by the Burundian authorities and members of the youth league of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure; fear of testifying for fear of reprisal; fear of returning to their country despite repeated calls by the Burundian Government.  Some victims were visibly traumatised following the torture and cruel or inhuman treatment they had suffered.  The people met described the fate of many others who had been executed or tortured, or who had been victims of sexual violence or enforced disappearances.  Furthermore, the few human rights defenders who had not been forced to leave Burundi were finding it increasingly difficult to gather testimonies from victims inside the country, for fear of exposing them to the risk of reprisals. 

The main media were still suspended.  The Commission was also concerned about certain amendments proposed to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure that would enable the security forces to carry out searches without a warrant, including at night; would strengthen controls over email; and would facilitate the seizure of electronic information.  The violence in Burundi, whether attributed to State agents, the Imbonerakure, or armed opposition groups, had persisted since April 2015.  There were continuing reports of disappearances and dead bodies were still regularly being discovered.  The Commission was struck by the particularly cruel and brutal nature of the violations described and by the worrisome testimonies of sexual violence against female relatives of Government opponents.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, said it was not out of place to recall that the Commission of Inquiry was the result of a report which had been contested by Burundi.  The African Union had turned its back on the people of Burundi.  Principles of cooperation had been violated at the outset.  It was a cut and paste exercise.  The partial tendentious nature of the report did not need to be proved, it was like burning a man alive and in broad daylight.  Burundi was not a renegade State, it was a decent and respectable State like other members of the United Nations.  Everything being done since 2015 was aimed at destabilizing Burundian institutions, including the recruitment and arming of Burundian refugees in Rwanda.  The European Union had tried to put Burundi against the pillory.  The young Imbonerakure were deliberately being described as a militia but they were in danger and could lose their lives because they were subjected to popular aggression by those who took upon themselves to say they were human rights defenders.  There were Imbonerakure members who were in contact with the law and they were being individually prosecuted.  It was regrettable that the report ignored efforts made by the Burundian Government and its defense and security forces to re-establish peace and security and protect its citizens.  Those who had committed atrocities in Burundi were well known.  Some were in the hands of the Burundian justice system and others were being sought.  Whereas there was a convention protecting human rights defenders, it should not include individuals who destabilized their country of origin.

Independent National Commission on Human Rights in Burundi said significant improvements could be seen in the security situation in Burundi despite a certain number of security incidents that had been mentioned.  Cases of attacks, murders, abductions and theft of private property had been identified recently along the western border but also in other parts of the country.  However, human rights violations were declining, and there was only one case of an arbitrary arrest recently and very isolated reports of torture and attacks and assaults on life.  The National Commission appealed to the Government to give appropriate support to the justice sector.  The Commission was concerned about ongoing misunderstandings that had led to the closure, suspension and elimination of certain civil society organizations and private media, and the suspension of cooperation with certain United Nations human rights mechanisms.  The Commission urged all to move forward in seeking agreed solutions.  It welcomed the summit of the countries of the region to lift sanctions against Burundi, and exhorted the European Union to follow suit.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union regretted that Burundi had refused to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and condemned all incitement to violence by security forces and by Imbonerakure, especially sexual and ethnic-based violence.  The European Union called on the Government to respect the Arusha Agreement, particularly constitutional reform.  Estonia remained deeply worried about systematic human rights violations by the Government, notably continued use of repressive measures, suspension of civil society organizations, and curtailed freedom of expression, association and assembly.  Canada stated that it saw the Commission as an important contribution of the international community to assist Burundi to put an end to impunity and violence.  The Government of Burundi had to show willingness to implement exemplary norms of human rights. 

Greece welcomed the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry and remained concerned about the deteriorating situation of human rights in Burundi, notably enforced disappearances, use of torture, arbitrary detention, assassinations and sexual violence.  United States called on Burundi to allow the Commission of Inquiry to visit the country, reminding that 430,000 Burundians had fled their homeland.  It called for an end to arbitrary and unlawful killings, forced disappearances, torture, sexual violence and other abuses.  Denmark noted with grave concern the worsening situation of human rights in Burundi, adding that the overall level of oppression had increased.  It reiterated the call on the Government to Burundi to address the humanitarian crisis and to protect human rights.  

Belgium was deeply alarmed by the cruelty of ethnic violence perpetrated by the Imbonerakure.   Belgium deplored the repeated use of torture and the numerous cases of enforced disappearances in the country and called for urgent prosecutions. Switzerland recalled that more than 400,000 persons had left the country since the beginning of the crisis in 2015.  Switzerland asked the Commission of Inquiry to provide recommendations on how Burundi could provide sufficient operative space for civil society.  Spain voiced concerns about the impunity for perpetrators of crimes in Burundi.  Spain also deplored the lack of will for cooperation on the part of Burundi, especially as it was a member of the Council.  Sudan highlighted that establishing peace and stability in Burundi was vital in order to ensure long lasting stability in the region.   It was essential to strengthen cooperation with the African Union and to put an end to foreign interference in Burundi. 

Germany asked the members of the Commission of Inquiry if they had achieved any direct contact with the Burundian Government or whether it had refused any communication at all.  Members of the Commission of Inquiry were also urged to elaborate on their working conditions.  Venezuela recognized the political will by the Burundian authorities to end the violence and noted that the imposition of mandates on sovereign countries did not improve the situation for human rights.  Such mandates generated high costs for the slim budget of the United Nations and did not yield significant results.  France said in order to ensure that the cycle of violence in Burundi ceased, it was indispensable that those responsible were made to answer for it.  Burundi should cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry, which had been established pursuant to a Council resolution.

China said the Burundian Government had made efforts to promote national reconciliation, and supported the mediation of the East African community.  Human rights issues should be addressed through constructive dialogue and cooperation, and the Human Rights Council should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Burundi.  Luxembourg noted that the Burundian Government continued to deny access to Council bodies, urging the authorities in Burundi to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office in Bujumbura.  Netherlands said that as a Human Rights Council member, the Government of Burundi had a legal and moral responsibility to protect its citizens from human rights violations, and asked the Commission of Inquiry to elaborate on the extent to which its work could enhance or in any other way support the inter-Burundian dialogue.

Portugal expressed deep concern about the serious human rights violations in Burundi, allegedly perpetrated by security forces and armed opposition forces.  It noted that about 67 per cent of the population was at risk of food insecurity and more than 390,000 Burundian refugees had fled to neighbouring countries.  Iran noted that States had the responsibility and duty to make necessary measures to ensure that human rights were not abused in order to achieve narrow political interests.  The Council should engage with Burundi in a constructive manner.  Liechtenstein regretted Burundi’s disengagement from the international community and its non-cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry.  Burundi’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court was another alarming sign. 

Albania expressed deep concern about the spiral of political violence in Burundi and the widespread abuse of human rights.  It deplored that Burundi was refusing access to the Commission of Inquiry.  The Government had to urgently address rising incitement to ethnic hate and sexual violence.  Ireland urged the Government of Burundi to protect citizens from intimidation and attacks by the youth militia, and to fully cooperate with international human rights mechanisms.  It reminded that the Arusha Accords were critical in upholding peace and stability in central Africa.  United Kingdom called on the Government of Burundi to collaborate with the Commission of Inquiry and asked the Commission to provide an update on its engagement with the African Union Peace and Security Council, in particular on the deployment of African Union human rights observers.

Tanzania recalled that it bore a heavy burden following the new wave of refugees from Burundi.  Tanzania fully supported the ongoing Burundi peace talks and called on all parties to the Burundi crisis to negotiate in good faith in order to put an end to the crisis.   Russian Federation underscored that any issues related to human rights situations must be considered in a constructive way and with the full involvement of the concerned State.  In this context, the Universal Periodic Review constituted a relevant instrument.  Uganda believed in a regionally led peace process and supported the efforts of all parties to the peace process.  Uganda deplored the lives lost during the conflict and urged all concerned parties to resolve the impasse in the negotiation process.

Human Rights Watch noted that Burundian Government security forces and members of the ruling party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure, continued to crack down on critics of Nkurunziza’s Government.  Hundreds of people had been killed and others tortured or forcibly disappeared since April 2015.  Espace Afrique International urged the Government of Burundi to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry to shed light on all human rights violations.  Today, 3 million Burundians needed support in their own country while 400,000 Burundians had left the country.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said the regime of terror by the authorities of Burundi continued to lash the country.  The worsening human rights situation in Burundi was of deep concern, and the Council was called on to suspend Burundi from its membership.  East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project thanked the experts for their report and said serious violations of human rights, including torture, continued to be perpetrated in Burundi.  The Council should remind Burundi of its obligations and assign responsibility for crimes committed.  Centre Independent de Recherches et d’Initiative pour le Dialogue said too many covert interests had biased the debate, and the Council should know the Commission was the last bulwark against crisis.  The Commission of Inquiry was asked how it would support the work of the Burundian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation said the Government continued to target members of the political opposition, and hundreds of people remained unaccounted for.  The Government of Burundi was called on to support the work of the Commission of Inquiry and take the necessary steps to end violence and human rights violations in the country.  Amnesty International said recent events highlighted that there was a lack of space for opposition to the Government.  The Government of Burundi should end restrictions on the work of independent civil society, and the Commission of Inquiry was asked to indicate its priorities for restoring civil society space in Burundi.   Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme exhorted Burundi to follow the foundational values of the Arusha Agreement, to ensure security, and to protect its population by respecting the rule of law, also urging the country’s political leadership to make every effort to return the country to a path of peace and economic and social development. 

Concluding Remarks

FATSAH OUGUERGOUZ, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, addressing the delegation of Burundi, stressed that the Commission was continuing its role in reporting to the Government its findings.  Thus, doubts of the lack impartiality were not in order.  The Commission had spared no effort to ask for the cooperation of the Government of Burundi and had repeatedly asked the Government for useful information about alleged assaults on human rights.  He again called on the Government to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.  As for the issue of sovereignty in reforming national laws, Mr. Ouguergouz recalled that the principle of sovereignty also invoked certain duties and not just prerogatives.  In March 2017, the Commission had contacted the African Union to share any information and comments in order to find a solution for the crisis in Burundi, as well as the African Commission for Human Rights.  As for the measures that the Burundian Government could take, it should re-open dialogue and the political scene in the country, with the participation of East African leaders.  The Government should repeal any legislation that restricted political liberties, above all freedom of opinion, assembly and association, and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights abuses.  The international community had to put political pressure on the Government to start a dialogue with opposition parties, and to use its good offices to involve regional leaders. 

FRANCOISE HAMPSON, Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, explained that the admission to detention centres should be refused to unauthorized personnel, and no person should be buried without an autopsy.  Indeed, there were increasing difficulties for people leaving Burundi due to Imbonerakure preventing them from leaving.  While there were examples of hate speech, testimonies indicated that victims were most often targeted because of their opposition to the Government rather than their ethnicity.   It seemed that the East African community was finding it very difficult to deal with the crisis in Burundi. 

Presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, welcomed the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission that had been established by the Council to look into alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses in Myanmar.  In Shan and Kachin States, unacceptable reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by several parties to the conflict, including the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups, had continued to arise.  Ms. Lee was particularly distressed to see an appalling 17 minute video posted on social media in May, apparently showing soldiers from the Myanmar army beating several bound and unarmed men.  In another incident in Kachin State, three individuals were found dead with their bodies reportedly showing signs of torture, a few days after supposedly being detained by the Tatmadaw.  The Special Rapporteur feared these incidents were part of a recurring pattern and highlighted that some cases of human rights violations were reported but could not be verified for lack of access. 

The continuing conflict in Kachin, Shan and Chin States had caused more people to flee.  Despite repeated requests from the United Nations and their partners, permission to travel to areas that were not under government control to assist newly displaced persons had still not been granted.  Recent reports outlined that 1,500 civilians in Kachin State, who had been instructed by the Tatmadaw to flee their homes, were stranded and unable to travel further as armed forces had blocked waterways normally used for transportation.  Sustainable peace and demilitarization were crucially needed across the country.  Ms. Lee voiced particular concern about the developments at Letpadaung copper mine where police fired rubber bullets at community members protesting in response to an incident in March during which a truck hit a local villager.  Continued protests over land confiscations had also been spreading across the country. 

Equally alarming were a number of incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence.  In April, extremist Buddhist nationals reportedly pressured authorities to close two Islamic schools in Yangon with no investigation.  Many in the Muslim community were worried that the Government was unable to counter the growing threat of extreme Buddhist nationalism.

The situation in Rakhine State remained tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture and kidnapping.  While the estimated 20,000 Rohingya who were displaced within Myanmar had mostly returned to their places of origin, returnees faced significant shelter needs due to the large number of homes burnt, a situation exacerbated by the impact of Cyclone Mora.  Whilst some of the reported 74,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh appeared to have now returned, exact numbers were difficult to ascertain.

Ultimately, the Special Rapporteur was particularly alarmed by the reported recent rise in the number of child brides amongst women and girls who fled Myanmar and lived in neighbouring countries.  This perpetuated the cycle of violence and poverty of these women.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur for her constructive engagement with the delegation of Myanmar, and stated that some clarifications would be provided on some points she had mentioned.  Humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons’ camps accessible in government-controlled areas in Kachin State was regular and guaranteed.  Section 66 (d) of the Telecommunication Act was receiving attention by the public and Members of Parliament alike.  Myanmar was aware of concern at incidents of incitement to intercommunal tension and religious violence.  Myanmar was making efforts to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.  Regarding compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thousands of birth certificates had been issued in Rakhine State, and basic level schools were being upgraded and renovated.  Myanmar had no intention of keeping internally displaced persons’ camps as “permanent segregation”, but needed more assistance in resettlement and development from the international community.  With regard to the Fact-Finding Mission, Myanmar had dissociated itself from the resolution because it was not in line with the situation on the ground.  It would not help solve the problems that Myanmar was facing in Rakhine State, where the concerns of both communities needed to be addressed.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union appreciated the cooperation of Myanmar with the Special Rapporteur and welcomed its measures to advance democracy, make peace and national reconciliation the main priority, as well as to address the underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine State.  Czechia noted that international monitoring of developments in Myanmar since the escalation of violence in Rakhine State in October 2016 was more important than ever, and called on the Government to fully cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission.  Estonia welcomed the efforts of Myanmar to ensure national reconciliation, but it remained concerned about the ongoing conflict in parts of the country, in particular about the situation of the Rohingya community in Rakhine State.

United States regretted grave human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and against other minorities in Kachin and Shan States.  At the same time, it was encouraged by the Government’s efforts to engage in dialogue regarding peace and national reconciliation and to enact legislation to strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law.  Denmark welcomed Myanmar’s positive response to the interim report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and its steps to implement relevant recommendations.  It encouraged the Government to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in northern Rakhine and to cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission.  Norway welcomed the developments in Myanmar towards political and economic reforms, democratization and good governance, and encouraged the Government to fully cooperate with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission, established by the Human Rights Council.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the establishment by the Council of a Fact-Finding Mission on human rights violations by military and security forces in Myanmar.  Saudi Arabia was concerned about the situation of Muslim Rohingya and urged the Government of Myanmar to reinforce tolerance and social cohabitation in the country.  Australia reiterated its deep concern over alleged human rights abuses during clearance operations in northern Rakhine State and the need for a thorough and impartial investigation into these allegations.  Poland expressed concern about reports on discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims. Poland asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on her assessment of the effectiveness of the actions of the Government of Myanmar to guarantee the respect of human rights.   

Spain spoke about the worrying situation of human rights in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States.  Spain underscored that the role of civil society needed to be strengthened in order to be able to contribute to establishing a long lasting peace.  Japan stated that promoting socio-economic development and reducing poverty were key steps in order to achieve a sustainable improvement in human rights in Myanmar and to build trust between all affected communities.  Organization of Islamic Cooperation highlighted the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  The rise of targeted violence had degenerated into a campaign of mass displacement of innocent civilians and ethnic cleansing. 

Venezuela said Myanmar had shown full willingness to cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms.  The imposition of selective mandates was an anachronistic practice which should be wiped out of the Council’s work.  Croatia reiterated its support to the Government of Myanmar and its endeavours toward a fully functioning democracy.  The Government was urged to continue doing all in its power to stop the discrimination, hostility and violence against religious and ethnic minorities.  France said the vigilance of the international community continued to be necessary, and called on “Burma” to cooperate fully with the Fact-Finding Mission.  The Special Rapporteur was asked how the international community could help her further implement her mandate.

China said that intercommunal affairs were internal affairs which could not be overcome overnight, and the international community should provide external situations conducive to the frictions being overcome.  Thailand encouraged the Special Rapporteur, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the international community to continue to provide technical cooperation and capacity-building to help Myanmar fulfil its human rights obligations.  Afghanistan expressed concern about ongoing systematic human rights violations in Myanmar.  The Rohingya Muslims must fully enjoy their human rights, and their dignity should be protected against any kind of violation and abuse.

Netherlands welcomed the dedication and commitment of Myanmar to ensure political and economic reform, democratization, national peace and reconciliation, good governance and the rule of law.  It called for an independent, transparent and credible investigation into human rights violations.  Democratic People’s Republic of Korea noted that country-specific procedures, including the one on Myanmar, often produced biased and non-factual reports, neglecting the reality on the ground.  It should be well noted that Myanmar was striving to achieve national reconciliation and to ensure citizens’ human rights.  Turkey said that the Union Accord of May 2017 was a positive step towards lasting peace and national reconciliation in Myanmar.  Nonetheless, challenges still remained, such as the increase in conflicts in Kachin and northern Shan States, which had exacerbated the humanitarian situation on the ground. 

Iraq maintained that the situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar amounted to genocide.  Thousands of them lived in camps and were denied access to basic services.  The world had a responsibility to act swiftly to help the Rohingya.  Republic of Korea noted Myanmar’s continued engagement with the Special Rapporteur and its full accord with the interim report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.  A safe environment for human rights defenders was vital in promoting and protecting human rights.
Ireland welcomed the progress made in Myanmar’s democratic transition in the face of a wide range of complex challenges, and urged full access for humanitarian aid, as well as for independent observers.     

United Kingdom expressed serious concern about the ongoing violations of human rights in Myanmar, and about the rise of hate speech.  It called on the Government and the military in Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Fact-Finding Mission.   Maldives was deeply concerned about the ongoing grave human rights violations against the Muslim Rohingya population, mostly children and women.  Rape, forced marriage and forced labour were everyday occurrences in the region.  India said that as a neighbour of Myanmar with whom it shared historical ties, it had consistently encouraged Myanmar to expedite political reforms and establish democratic institutions.  India said that the Council should encourage Myanmar to further develop its capacities to address human rights.  

Lao People’s Democratic Republic stressed that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was the most dependable process where human rights could be addressed in objectivity and respect for sovereign States.  Lao People’s Democratic Republic called on the international community to continue its engagement with Myanmar to help realize its international obligations.  Cuba stated that improvements in the field of human rights could only be achieved through an approach of cooperation and with the support of international mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review.  New Zealand said that reaching a lasting peace in Myanmar was an essential piece of its transition to democracy.  New Zealand called on the Government of Myanmar to take steps to put an end to violence and investigate human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka noted the continued engagement and cooperation of Myanmar with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, development and humanitarian partners and other relevant stakeholders.  Sri Lanka requested the international community to provide technical assistance and capacity building to Myanmar to realize the national peace agenda.  Russian Federation pointed out that the discussion of human rights situations in individual countries provided no added value to the Council’s work.  The constructive participation of the affected State, free from attempts of politicization, was a prerequisite for providing targeted assistance in the field of human rights.  Albania reiterated its support for the Fact-Finding Mission, which would be a complementary mechanism to the work of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.  The Rohingya minority were facing systematic and widespread human rights abuses, which could amount to crimes against humanity. 

Belarus said it rejected politically motivated measures against countries and the adoption of country-specific resolutions that were not universally recognized.  Despite the goodwill of Myanmar, it continued to be subjected to political pressure.  Notable progress had been made by Myanmar in political reforms and thus the Council should refrain from using coercive measures.  Viet Nam welcomed Myanmar’s efforts to strengthen cooperation and genuine dialogue with international and regional partners.  The international community needed to support Myanmar and to contribute to the realization of its people’s aspirations for peace, stability, democracy and development.  

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said 120 political prisoners must all be released immediately, urging the Government and Parliament of Myanmar to urgently amend or repeal legislation that was inconsistent with international human rights standards.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide expressed disappointment that the Government of Myanmar had disassociated itself from the resolution, and in addition to a thorough investigation in Rakhine, the deteriorating human rights situation in other States required urgent action.  Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said freedom of expression, assembly and association remained stifled in Myanmar, and welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s decision to look into business and human rights issues.  The ability of civil society to freely engage with the Fact-Finding Mission was critical. 

Human Rights Watch said the Fact-Finding Mission represented a crucial opportunity to address the systemic challenges that stood between the Myanmar of today and an open democratic society.  Myanmar was urged not to isolate itself by refusing access to the Mission.   International Bar Association said Myanmar should cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission and the Government should allow full and unfettered access to the country.  Civil society should be able to cooperate with the Mission without fear of reprisals.  Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said the Muslims of Rakhine State were facing repression and suffering from flagrant human rights violations since the 1970s.  Myanmar should respect the rights and freedoms of the Rohingya minority.

Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, in a joint statement with, Lawyers for Lawyers, stressed the need for an independent legal profession in Myanmar, enabled to uphold human rights and the rule of law without fear.  The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms required effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession.  Amnesty International highlighted that it had documented violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Myanmar Army and armed groups in Northern Shan and Kachin States.  These included the indiscriminate shelling of civilian populated areas, summary executions, arbitrary arrests, torture and forced labour.

Concluding Remarks

YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, welcomed the inclusion of a number of human rights issues in the 37 general points that were agreed on by participants to the most recent union peace conference that was held at the end of May.  It was important to further encourage discussions in the peace process and to strengthen the role of the Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar.  Allegations of serious human rights violations should be examined and perpetrators of such violations should be held responsible on the basis of independent investigations.  Ms. Lee said she would continue to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  She was concerned that the access to the region was still difficult and limited.  As part of her recommendations, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the need to develop an action plan on human rights in Myanmar and to open an office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with a full mandate in Myanmar.  She urged the Government of Myanmar to allow full access to the Fact-Finding Mission in the country.  More space should be opened to civil society organizations since they played a key role in bringing together diverse communities.  Grievances by communities also should receive attention by top leaders of the country.  She called on the members of the Council to encourage an institutional reform in the country as well as the review of the 1982 citizenship law in Myanmar.  Reprisals against all actors who cooperated with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate had been a major problem.  Finally Ms. Lee stressed that changing the principle of non-interference into a principle of non-indifference could help furthering the democratic transition of Myanmar.  



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HRC17/096E