The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of the recommendations made by the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar (A/HRC/52/21).
VOLKER TÜRK, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said as Myanmar entered the third year of the crisis generated by military rule, its people continued to suffer profound human rights harms; an expanding humanitarian emergency; continuing impunity of the military authorities; and a deepening economic crisis. Armed conflict continued to grow and military operations now increasingly involved the use of airstrikes, artillery shelling and heavy weaponry against civilians. The latest report detailed a number of incidents being investigated, including hundreds of houses being burned and dozens of people, including children, killed by shelling and military raids.
Airstrikes against civilian locations had increased by 141 per cent in the second year of the military takeover, and artillery shelling of communities had increased by over 100 per cent. Incidents in which homes and neighbourhoods were set on fire had risen by 380 per cent in the second year after the coup, leading to an estimated 1,200 per cent increase in the number of homes destroyed. Since the military takeover, some 39,000 structures had been burned, and people unable to flee risked being burned to death. The more than 1.3 million people displaced since the coup began faced destitution. At least 2,947 civilians had been killed by the military since 2021, including 244 children. More than one third of these confirmed deaths occurred in military custody. Cases had been reported of some armed groups attacking and killing civilians perceived to be working for or with the military. These acts constituted murder and needed to be condemned. It was imperative that the military respected the Security Council’s December resolution, and took steps to end the violence.
On 1 February 2023, the military extended the state of emergency, subjecting civilians to the expanded jurisdiction of military tribunals, with no right to appeal – even upon imposition of the death penalty. Since February 2021, at least 17,572 people had been arrested (including 381 children) with 13,763 remaining in detention. Across the country, 17.6 million people now needed humanitarian assistance, and over 15.2 million faced acute food insecurity.
The Rohingya community still remaining in Myanmar continued to face widespread discrimination. At least 3,500 Rohingya attempted sea crossings in 2022– a 360 per cent increase from 2021. At least 348 of them had died or had gone missing at sea. Mr. Türk appealed to all countries to provide support to people fleeing Myanmar, and to their host communities. There needed to be increased international support, and the continuing proceedings before both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court warranted every support. Mr. Türk remained concerned by the prospect of new elections taking place in Myanmar and the arbitrary detention of elected political leaders in February 2021. He called on the Council to do its best to deliver humanitarian support directly to Myanmar’s people, and called on United Nations Member States to promote dialogue and sustainable solutions to bring an end to this brutal crisis.
In the discussion, some speakers said, among other things, that since the 1 February 2021 coup, the military had brought Myanmar into a perpetual human rights crisis through continuous human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to international crimes. The consistent tactics and patterns of abuse underscored the military’s responsibility for these violations, including indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery attacks against populated areas, village raids and burnings, arbitrary arrests, use of torture, extrajudicial killings, killing of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, military use of schools, sexual and gender-based violence, severe restrictions of fundamental freedoms and many more, with persons belonging to ethnic or religious minorities such as the Rohingya bearing the brunt.
Several speakers expressed continued support to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ five-point consensus, recalling Security Council resolution 26/69 (2022), and demanded an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country. United Nations Security Council resolution 26/69 called for the regime to end its violence across the country, release arbitrarily detained prisoners, allow unhindered humanitarian access, protect members of minority groups, and respect the will and democratic aspirations of the people of Myanmar, and there were as yet no signs of results in this direction. Speakers also called for the release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, the provision of full and unhindered humanitarian access, and the protection of civilians in Myanmar. Further calls were also made for an international arms embargo and targeted economic action to prevent the flow of weapons to the military.
The situation in Rakhine state continued to be tense and fragile, speakers noted. Addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis was of paramount important in pursuing a durable resolution to the crisis. Both in Myanmar and beyond, the Rohingyas had become more vulnerable to various discrimination, violence, radicalisation and trafficking. The authorities in Myanmar were urged to fully cooperate with international mechanisms, including the Special Envoys of the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as those established by this Council, and to step up their efforts to create conducive conditions that would facilitate safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation, including by ensuring justice and accountability.
The international community was urged to apply stronger pressure on the Government of Myanmar, and to stand together to demand an end to the violence and seek a peaceful reconciliation to the crisis. One speaker said the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court without delay. The international concerns for a peaceful and prosperous Myanmar must go hand in hand with fulfilling the rights of minorities. All parties should refrain from further violence and the Myanmar authorities should allow access for humanitarian assistance, including through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management. International cooperation should be strengthened to prevent further displacement and find a sustainable solution. Space should be made to ensure a democratic and fruitful dialogue, with the participation of all parties.
One speaker spoke of regret that Myanmar had not participated in the discussion, stressing respect for its sovereignty. Some speakers said all parties should speak and work in order to help the parties in Myanmar overcome their divergences and problems in order to overcome their differences, and the international community should respect the territorial integrity and national unity of Myanmar in resolving the situation. Dialogue and reconciliation must be the way forward. To not listen to the State concerned precluded hearing about its efforts and the progress made on the ground. Another speaker called for an end to all unilateral coercive measures imposed on Myanmar, which caused immense suffering to the people on the ground.
For a peaceful future, a vibrant and diverse civil society was indispensable, and there was deep concern about the ongoing repression of civil society organizations in Myanmar. Civil society organizations, including human rights defenders, were being monitored, restricted and harassed. The Organization Registration Act that was introduced last year was another blow for civic space, and a speaker applauded Myanmar’s civilian organizations for their courage and resilience. Their work was indispensable for accountability, women empowerment, and giving youth in Myanmar a voice to shape their future. One speaker pointed out that international human rights mechanisms should, however, operate whilst respecting the sovereignty and territoriality of States, and a genuine concern for human rights was required for human rights without politicisation or bias, operating through cooperation with the Government and repudiation of all unilateral coercive measures and other measures imposed upon the country.
What measures could be taken to reduce violence against civilians and human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar, as well as to ensure accountability for past and ongoing crimes, a speaker asked? Another asked how could the international community help support civil society and human rights defenders under threat in Myanmar? The international community had an obligation to restore even a sliver of hope. Would the High Commissioner recommend that the international community recognise the National Unity Government as the true Government of Myanmar, a speaker asked? How could the international community support Myanmar’s diverse democratic movement to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights, another speaker asked? How could the international community continue to support civil society organizations that were active in Myanmar under these circumstances, so they survived and played their essential role in the future of Myanmar, another speaker asked?
VOLKER TÜRK, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said this was an extremely troubling situation: Myanmar was in free-fall, and the international community had to respond in the most effective way possible. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ five-point plan, Security Council resolution 26/69, and the Human Rights Council resolutions set out the expectations of the international community, as well as the benchmarks for a solution. The solution against this background was set out, and the international community needed to look at how these various documents had been disrespected by the authorities. Those Member States with any influence over the authorities should work to ensure that there was a change in the country that brought it back to the plight of the people. This required a coordinated and unified approach, and a number of things could be done in addition to what had been said.
There needed to be an end to arms being sold, and economic measures. The international community must not be engaged in supporting any electoral process that lacked the ability to ensure the participation of all the people of the country in peace and security. Those involved in civil society and national human rights defenders needed to be seen as key interlocutors for any solution. Regarding accountability for past and present human rights violations, this was key to any solution to the crisis, and whatever emerged as a solution would have to have inherent in it transitional justice. Member States could look at universal jurisdiction for crimes committed in Myanmar. There should be full support, politically- and funding-wise, for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
The Rohingya, as well as the countries hosting them, required continued support by the international community. The Government of National Unity and all other representatives of Myanmar civil society must be involved in all attempts to restore democracy and ensure fair elections. The threat to civil society organizations was really existential, human rights defenders faced a myriad of issues, problems and potential risks, and it was vital to continue to alert the world of these risks. Donors should look at flexible and creative means of funding for human rights defenders and civil society organizations to ensure that their work continued, including resettlement and even witness protection.
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