EU MUST TAKE DECISIVE ACTION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR
Amnesty International is writing to urge you to exercise leadership of the European Union (EU) and its member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
As you will have seen, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Amnesty International and others have described the Myanmar security forces’ ongoing campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State as ethnic cleansing. In legal terms, the systematic attacks on the Rohingya population amount to crimes against humanity that include murder and deportation or forcible transfer of population.
As you know, until last year, the EU was the chief sponsor of an annual resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Last year, the EU decided to discontinue the effort citing progress by the Myanmar authorities. At the time, Amnesty International along with other international human rights organisations publicly opposed the move.1
Since then, the situation has deteriorated rapidly in Myanmar. In addition to the crisis in Rakhine State, we are also deeply concerned about the serious human rights situation in Kachin and northern Shan States, where Amnesty International has documented wide-ranging violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by the Myanmar security forces, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, indiscriminate shelling, arbitrary detentions, torture and forced labour.2
Humanitarian access is the most limited it has been in recent years, as humanitarian organisations report severe and arbitrary restrictions on their operations across the country. Meanwhile space for freedom of expression remains under threat and those who speak out about or report on security forces violations face arrest, prosecution, intimidation and harassment. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar expressed similar concerns during her last visit to the country.3
Urgent action is required to address the situation in Myanmar and to prevent it from deteriorating still further. To this end, we urge the EU and its member states to pro-actively revive the UNGA resolution in response to the gravity of the crisis in Rakhine State and the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the country as a whole.
The resolution would be a means of pursuing decisive action by the UNGA to ensure international scrutiny and monitoring of the situation, and increased pressure to press for solutions anchored in international human rights law. It is important that such a resolution is comprehensive and not only looks at the situation of the Rohingya and Rakhine State but encompasses all serious human rights concerns in the country which are all interlinked. Please find below detailed recommendations that Amnesty International believes should be in a UNGA resolution on Myanmar.
In addition to action at the UN level, and noting that the primary responsibility for the appalling abuses and crimes in Rakhine State and other parts of the country rests with the Myanmar military, we also are calling on the EU and its member states to extend the existing EU arms embargo against Myanmar to include all forms of military assistance, and to impose targeted financial sanctions against individuals responsible for international crimes.
The EU and its member states must send a clear message to the Myanmar authorities that failure to address the current crisis will be met with strong action. To this end, we also call for a unified and unequivocal stance on the situation in Myanmar in the forthcoming Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) by issuing strong Council Conclusions reflecting the concerns below and undertaking a joint commitment to lead on a renewed UNGA resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent situation.
Iverna McGowan Director Amnesty International, European Institutions Office