Human Rights Council Opens Forty-fourth Regular Session, Hears High Commissioner’s Update on the Human Rights Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic

30 June 2020

Interactive Dialogue on the Oral Update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Human Rights Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar

Documentation

The Council has before it the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 5 December – Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar ( A/HRC/RES/S-27/1 ).

Presentation of the Oral Update on the Situation of Human Rights of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , presenting the oral update, noted with regret that the human rights situation for Rohingyas in Rakhine state had not improved. Restrictions on humanitarian access and freedom of movement linked to the COVID-19 pandemic had further exacerbated the situation. In Rakhine and Chin states, the civilian population, including several minority communities, continued to bear the brunt of an intensifying armed conflict between the Tatmadaw military and the Arakan Army. The former launched a “clearance operation” in Rakhine this weekend, forcing residents to leave the area as anyone left would have been considered part of the Arakan Army, with an estimated 10,000 residents having already fled. In addition, a pattern of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including airstrikes, shelling of civilian areas, and the destruction and burning of villages had been documented by the Office. The houses of Rohingyas in the Buthidaung township where they hoped to return to, and that also constituted evidence of what happened in 2017, were burned down last month by the Tatmadaw. The Rohingya refugee crisis had effectively become protracted, with no solution in sight, as Myanmar continued to impose National Verification Cards on the Rohingya, denying their citizenship, leaving them stateless and restricting their access to basic service or free movement.

Ms. Bachelet welcomed the recent release of hundreds of Rohingya people who had been imprisoned for traveling outside Rakhine, expressing hope that this was a step towards restoring their freedom of movement. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the suffering of Rohingya refugees, as hundreds of thousands of people lived in cramped conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Myanmar’s national Commission of Enquiry had delivered its report on the 2017 violence to the Government, but the text was still not public, leaving the credibility of the investigation in doubt. It was time for the Government to make it public, and to fully translate the decrees that followed the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures into concrete action. Two and a half years since resolution A/HRC/S-27/1 sought a comprehensive solution in three years, conditions in Rakhine remained bleak, and it was time for the situation to change. Ms. Bachelet reiterated that the international community stood ready to support real efforts to solve this crisis.

Statement by Myanmar as the Concerned Country

Myanmar , speaking as the concerned country, said the Government of Myanmar paid special emphasis to socio-economic development in Rakhine state as poverty was one of the root causes of the issue. It was making utmost efforts to foster social cohesion and living harmoniously among different communities. The Government of Myanmar, in collaboration with local non-governmental organizations, had organized over 200 awareness raising and capacity building trainings throughout Rakhine state. The Government was delivering humanitarian assistance to the people in need in Rakhine, even though the intensity of armed clashes since early 2019 had presented considerable challenges to the delivering of humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected area. Myanmar had been working in good faith for early repatriation in line with the criteria mentioned in the bilateral agreements, despite the many obstacles hindering the commencement of repatriation, and it continued to engage with Bangladesh to implement the agreement for repatriation, even in the time of the global pandemic. Myanmar was willing and able to address the issue of accountability. The domestic justice system of a country must be respected. A Criminal Investigation and Prosecution Body had been formed based on the report submitted by the Independent Commission of Inquiry in January 2020.

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