Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Hears from Civil Society Organizations from Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Ethiopia and Myanmar

GENEVA (18 February 2019) – The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with civil society organizations from Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda, Ethiopia and Myanmar whose reports will be reviewed by the Committee during the first week of the session.  The Committee also heard, via a video link, from Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who briefed the Committee on the situation of women human rights defenders in Colombia.

In Myanmar, despite well-documented, widespread rape and sexual violence by security forces in 2016 and 2017 in northern Rakhine State, the Government continued to assert that there was “no evidence to support these wild claims”, while civil and military authorities continued to shield soldiers and their commanders from prosecution.  The 1982 Citizenship Law must be amended to omit any criteria based on race, ethnicity or religion, and ensure that the rights to citizenship and self-identity of Rohingya women and girls were fully restored.  The Committee should back the new investigative and evidence-gathering body created by the Human Rights Council, and ask the United Nations Security Council to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court.

Dialogue with Non-Governmental Organizations

Statements

A representative of Women Peace Network from Myanmar said that sexual and gender-based violence had played a key role in the commission of grave international crimes committed by the Myanmar military, but despite well-documented, widespread rape and sexual violence by security forces in 2016 and 2017, the Government continued to deny that any sexual violence had occurred in northern Rakhine State.  The Myanmar-led “independent commission of inquiry” continued to lack credibility, and none of the previous eight national investigations had led to any effective prosecution of security forces.  Giving any recognition to such a commission that lacked independence and impartiality, and that was yet to make any effective contribution to justice and accountability, would undermine and delay the meaningful international measures for justice and accountability.  The speaker stressed that the 1982 Citizenship Law must be amended to omit any criteria based on race, ethnicity or religion, and ensure that the rights to citizenship and self-identity of Rohingya women and girls were fully restored.  There was strong evidence that Myanmar intended to relocate the Rohingya and any returning population into internment camps or segregated Muslim “villages” under highly militarized conditions.

Human Rights Watch said that after the Myanmar military had launched its campaign of ethnic cleansing in August 2017, its researchers had spoken to Rohingya women and girls who had been raped by security forces and witnessed deep pain, shame and distress born not only from the recent violence but also from chronic fear, persecution and neglect.  Despite the overwhelming evidence of grave crimes, the Myanmar Government continued to assert that there was “no evidence to support these wild claims”.  Civil and military authorities continued to shield soldiers and their commanders from prosecution.  The Committee should back the new investigative and evidence-gathering body created by the Human Rights Council, and ask the United Nations Security Council to refer this situation to the International Criminal Court.

Discussion

Civil society representatives from Myanmar said that the majority of people were prejudiced against the Rohingya due to the longstanding propaganda by the Government, but there were civil society leaders in different sectors who were aware of the situation and were taking action.  It was important to highlight that everyone who got involved in the search for truth suffered threats, violence and intimidation, the case of the two Reuter journalists being a case in point.  On justice and remedy, there was very little in the law to actually allow victims of sexual violence to access courts.  Impunity for such crimes committed by military or security forces was helped by the fact that those were the jurisdiction of military courts.  A speaker stressed that the judiciary was the most unreliable, incompetent, and corrupt pillar in the country.  That was why justice and accountability for grave human rights violations committed against the Rohingya should be pursued internationally.

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