The Human Rights Council this morning discussed the situation of human rights in Myanmar and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It heard the High Commissioner say that the human rights of the people of Myanmar were in profound crisis and that accountability remained crucial to any solution to the crisis in Myanmar. The Council also heard the Special Rapporteur speak about the most serious human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the need to pursue accountability, urging a stop of crimes against humanity like the political prison camps in the country.
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the human rights of the people of Myanmar were in profound crisis. Myanmar was increasingly at risk of State collapse, with shattered economic, education, health, and social protection systems. The High Commissioner remained acutely concerned for the safety and rights of human rights defenders and other civil society actors. Military authorities systematically used arrests and detentions as a tool to target and intimidate people who opposed them. The plight of the Rohingya people – a population persecuted for decades – remained dire, with no solution in sight. In conclusion, the High Commissioner stated that accountability remained crucial to any solution to this crisis.
In the ensuing debate on Myanmar, some speakers welcomed the efforts of the High Commissioner’s Office to assess the gravity of human rights violations in Myanmar. Calls were made for an immediate end to violence against the civilian population and for the release of all political prisoners. Speakers condemned any discrimination against minorities, as well as the systematic use of violence and arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearances. Speakers condemned the military coup. Some speakers regretted that Myanmar, as a country concerned, was unable to participate in the dialogue and supported all parties to find a political solution through dialogue to restore social stability and to restart the democratic process in the country. Multilateral institutions such as the Human Rights Council should help Myanmar to solve the current situation rather than supporting external intervention.
Speaking during the discussion on Myanmar were the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Luxembourg, Viet Nam, China, Spain, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Romania, United Kingdom, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bulgaria, India, Switzerland, Gambia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and France.
Also speaking were Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, Edmund Rice International Limited, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Centre for Civil and Political Rights, Baptist World Alliance, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Article 19 International Centre Against Censorship, International Bar Association, CIVICUS, Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, and International Commission of Jurists.
Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
The Council has before it (A/HRC/49/72) report of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Myanmar since 1 February 2021
Presentation of Report
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that 13 months after the military coup of 1 February 2021, the human rights of the people of Myanmar were in profound crisis. Harsh repression of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and information – including Internet access – had not quelled the country’s rejection of the coup. Most protests had been expressed peacefully, regardless, the military had met all dissent – both acts of civil disobedience and acts of violence – in the same manner: with the use of lethal force, mass arbitrary arrests, and the use of torture. Since February 2021, over half a million people had been forced to flee their homes, with at least 15,000 recorded as fleeing the country. They added to the nearly 340,000 people internally displaced before February 2021 and over one million refugees, most of them Rohingya.
Ms. Bachelet said that Myanmar was increasingly at risk of State collapse, with shattered economic, education, health, and social protection systems. The collapse of the health system had had devastating consequences for Myanmar’s COVID-19 response. The country’s precious development gains had been destroyed by conflict and the military’s abuse of power. The High Commissioner remained acutely concerned for the safety and rights of human rights defenders and other civil society actors. Military authorities systematically used arrests and detentions as a tool to target and intimidate people who opposed them. The plight of the Rohingya people – a population persecuted for decades – remained dire, with no solution in sight.
In conclusion, the High Commissioner said that accountability remained crucial to any solution to this crisis. Human rights violations and crimes being committed today by Myanmar’s military forces were built upon the impunity with which they perpetrated the slaughter of the Rohingya four years ago – and other, similar, operations against ethnic minorities over many previous decades. Clearly, there would need to be a political pathway to restore democracy and civilian rule. But such dialogue could not and would not displace the urgent need to hold to account those responsible for severe human rights violations. The people of Myanmar deserved, and overwhelmingly demanded, justice. Ms. Bachelet urged stronger efforts to advance tangible results from the five-point consensus achieved by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in April 2021 as so far, there had been little progress.
In the ensuing debate, speakers thanked the High Commissioner for her report and welcomed the efforts of her Office to assess the gravity of human rights violations in Myanmar. Cases of discrimination were on the rise. The persecution of minorities was increasing the risk to the security of the entire region. Speakers called for an immediate end to violence against civilian populations and for the release of all political prisoners. They condemned any discrimination against minorities, as well as the systematic use of violence and arbitrary detentions, torture and enforced disappearances. Such blatant violations were condemned and concerns over violence against civilians and human rights defenders were expressed. Speakers condemned the military coup. They expressed concerns over the level of violence and called on the military leadership to end all forms of violence, to ensure accountability and to end impunity for all human rights violations.
Some speakers urged the de facto authority to respect the Human Rights Council and all other United Nations mechanisms, fully cooperate with them, and cease reprisal against those mechanisms. The scale of human rights violations exacerbated the tragedy faced by the Rohingya population. Humanitarian access should be free and unhindered. Concerns over the supply of weapons to Myanmar were expressed. The international community should cease all transfers of weapons to Myanmar. Member States were urged to prevent the sale of weapons and military assistance to Myanmar. The army was continuing its brutal oppression instead of respecting international humanitarian law.
Some speakers regretted that Myanmar, as a country concerned, was unable to participate in the dialogue and supported all parties to find a political solution through dialogue to restore social stability and to restart the democratic process in the country. The current problem in Myanmar was for the people of Myanmar to solve and external pressure would only be counterproductive. Multilateral institutions such as the Human Rights Council should help Myanmar to solve the current situation rather than support external intervention. Speakers supported the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and reiterated the importance of a prosperous and peaceful Myanmar. They were supportive of the constructive role of the Association to work with Myanmar to advance the implementation of the consensus.
Concluding Remarks on Myanmar
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, responding to the question on what more could be done to prevent a further spiral of human rights violations in Myanmar, including against women and children, said she was concerned about this, and the impact it could have across the country, and the Office had observed increasingly brutal tactics and use of heavy power. Villages were being razed to the ground. Women in detention were experiencing violation and degrading treatment, including torture, and both men and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons had been sexually assaulted at police stations. Children had been detained in various areas; some were being prosecuted and two had been given the death penalty. Steps had been identified to end the spiral: to stop the military oppression, to release detainees, and to restore democracy, among others. It was important for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to support this. The report set out clear additional actionable recommendations that could assist the people of Myanmar and which highlighted the actions that the international community could take, including sanctions on military-linked economic interests. It was important for all stakeholders in the democratic movement and ethnic groups to be consulted in any efforts to solve the situation.
There had been a complete breakdown of the national system to ensure economic and social rights: millions had lost their jobs, the price of basic commodities had soared, and public health care systems were collapsing. Women teachers had gone without pay. There was an urgent need for humanitarian assistance in all parts of Myanmar. It was important to ensure the maximum involvement of civil society and humanitarian organizations in delivering aid, as they enjoyed the recognition of the people. Accountability should be ensured for serious human rights violations, as well as international crimes, which should be addressed as a solution for any sustainable political situation in the country. There should be a comprehensive transitional justice policy, ensuring the rights of victims and allowing victims to make their voices heard. The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar was aiding this in the context of international standards. The different processes involved should collaborate to avoid overlap, and to ensure accountability in full. The High Commissioner said she fully supported the call for the creation of a conducive, dignified and sustainable return of the Rohingya to their own lands. There would be no sustainable solution unless these key issues could be addressed.