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Myanmar: UN experts urge more help for human rights defenders in push for accountability

September 16th, 2022  •  Author:   Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  •  4 minute read
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GENEVA (16 September 2022) – UN experts said today human rights defenders documenting and responding to atrocities by Myanmar’s military junta urgently need comprehensive support, including financial, and called on the international community to end apparent indifference to the violence targeting the country’s population.

“In the face of inaction by the international community, and with human rights violations continuing to be perpetrated on a daily basis by the military junta, human rights defenders are persisting in their support for those targeted and working to preserve the possibility of justice in the future,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Along with Tom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Lawlor highlighted the grave risks defenders face and the specific challenges confronting women human rights defenders.

“Defenders have been murdered and disappeared by the military since the coup took place. They now risk arrest, detention, torture, including sexual violence and death when going about their work and fear having their documents seized at military checkpoints,” the experts said. “Many have had to go into hiding after being targeted by the military for assisting survivors of gender-based violence. They are on the move constantly, and women human rights defenders often have no choice but to take their children with them when they flee.”

Others have had to relocate to neighbouring countries, where they remain vulnerable.

Lawlor and Andrews said they had publicly expressed concerns for the safety of defenders in the country just over a year ago.

“What’s needed is concrete support for Myanmar human rights defenders, including those who have had to flee the country: stronger, coordinated pressure on the junta, timely and responsive direct financial support for defenders on the ground, and visas or resettlement for those fleeing the country,” the experts said.

“The international community must not adopt a passive stance when it comes to the crimes that are being perpetrated by the military junta and the risks for human rights defenders in Myanmar.”

The experts: Ms Mary Lawlor (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.

Mr Thomas Andrews(United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as 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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human rights country page: Myanmar

For more information and media requests please contact: Orsolya Toth (+41 (0)22 917 99 13 /) or write to [email protected].

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Renato Rosario De Souza ([email protected]) ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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