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UN Human Rights Expert Calls for Targeted Sanctions

October 23rd, 2019  •  Author:   UN Human Rights Office of the High Comissioner  •  4 minute read

GENEVA (23 October 2019) – A UN human rights expert on Myanmar has called for sanctions against military-run companies and commanders responsible for serious violations.

Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the UN General Assembly in New York that she sees no discernable improvement to the situation in Myanmar.

Lee called for targeted sanctions against the Tatmadaw’s companies and its commanders most responsible for serious violations. She also said that the Security Council must refer the entire situation to the International Criminal Court or establish an international tribunal to try alleged perpetrators of international crimes. The international community should also work with civil society to develop transformative processes in accordance with the pillars of justice, truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.

She said that structural impunity continues to obstruct people across Myanmar from claiming the rights to which they are entitled. “An end to impunity in Myanmar remains a lofty, far-off goal,” Lee said. “However, the international community must maintain its resolve and do more if that goal is to become within reach.”

Lee said that since April of this year, there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases involving military reprisals against critical protesters, activists and journalists reporting on the conflict in Rakhine State. In September, Government officials filed separate criminal defamation complaints against two satirists and a cartoonist for their social media posts, which were critical of the ruling National League for Democracy. “With general elections next year, this is a deeply worrying trend,” she said.

Lee expressed concern about Government plans for hydropower development in conflict areas where communities have been displaced from their land, including in Rakhine and Chin States. Communities in Kachin, Shan and Kayin States continue to protest proposed hydropower dams that will submerge their lands, and with very little information made public about the plans, they are left in limbo about their fate.

Lee said that she “remains resolute in my belief that it is unsafe for Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar until the fundamental circumstances leading to their expulsion are remedied”. She cited the case of up to 30 Rohingyas being arrested, charged and convicted of criminal offences because they had left Rakhine State in September. Among them were eight children sent to a detention centre, and a five-year-old who is in prison with his mother.

“This abhorrent treatment is completely antithetical to Myanmar’s human rights and child rights obligations, and is indicative of the risk that any returning Rohingya would face if they wished to exercise the freedom of movement that they are demanding,” Lee said. “This is the living reality faced by the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar.”


Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.

The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /

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