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Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Situation of human rights in Myanmar since 1 February 2021 (Advance unedited version)

June 30th, 2023  •  Author:   Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  •  7 minute read
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Human Rights Council
Fifty-third session
19 June–14 July 2023
Agenda items 2 and 4
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Summary

The present report, prepared pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/49/23, identifies trends and patterns of human rights violations in Myanmar between 1 February 2021 and 30 April 2023 with a focus on the human rights impact of the denial of humanitarian access. The report analyzes actions by all duty-bearers and finds that the Myanmar military is most responsible for the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights and on delivery of humanitarian action. The report documents that the military has established an all-encompassing system of control based on instrumentalization of the legal and administrative spheres in Myanmar. Urgent and concrete steps are needed to ensure essential needs of all people are met, including food and healthcare, and to respect, protect and fulfil peoples’ fundamental rights. This report concludes with recommendations to all parties, including the military authorities, the National Unity Government’, and the international community.

Conclusions and recommendations 

  1. As the post-coup human rights crisis continues to worsen, Myanmar’s overall humanitarian situation has also deteriorated to alarming levels. Through the implementation of its “four cuts” policy aimed at severing support for anti-military groups, the military has killed and injured thousands of civilians while destroying goods and infrastructure necessary for survival, including food, shelter, and medical centres. In violation of international obligations, the military has targeted humanitarian actions and actors through an all-encompassing system of military measures and the instrumentalization of the legal and administrative spheres, forcing aid providers to either renounce support to people in desperate need of life-saving aid or to deliver at enormous personal risks.
  2. Meanwhile, duty bearers have failed to meet their obligation to protect civilians. Security across the country has deteriorated as the military has persistently targeted civilians through airstrikes and razing of populated areas. Widespread use of landmines by multiple actors has also furthered insecurity. As a result, many organizations have forgone or drastically modified operations in affected areas, negatively impacting a wide range of human rights protections for individuals affected by violence. Local actors, who are overwhelmingly carrying out operations, are continuously risking death, arrest, torture, and harassment. Violations and restrictions documented in this report, when conducted as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, and if they resulted in severely depriving fundamental rights of individuals perceived as part of a group opposing military rule may constitute the crime against humanity of persecution.  
  3. Amongst the numerous and interconnected measures put in place by the military to control or deny humanitarian assistance, a key obstacle are the military checkpoints. These are unanimously reported to be places of arbitrary enforcement of unclear rules, instilling fear in anyone who has to cross them. Whenever possible, those seeking assistance and those seeking to assist try to avoid checkpoints. Given increased violence and mine contamination across the country this is, however, increasingly difficult, resulting in a clear negative impact on the quantity, quality, and timeliness of assistance reaching people-in-need. 
  4. While the military restricts movements of people through several measures, the instrumental use of the pre-existing arbitrary and discriminatory travel authorizations regime plays a critical role. In all areas under its control, the military strategically decides on the groups of beneficiaries and types of aid to be delivered, as well as its timing, in violation of principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. Similarly, the military prevents the movement of goods and humanitarian items through systemic restrictions, and the ability of individuals to transfer and safely access funds.
  5. These pervasive and interlinked restrictions are anchored in the recently imposed regime for compulsory registration of organizations. Through its unilateral instrumentalization of the legal system and criminalization of lack of compliance or engagement with non-registered organizations, the military has cohesively linked access to funds, goods, authorizations, visa, and numerous other critical aspects of humanitarian actions, to registration. Registration depends on lengthy and onerous administrative procedures whose rules remain unclear and are under the discretion of the military. Intrusive documentation is required of applicants and stringent checks indicate the intention to politicize the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
  6. In the light of the above findings, the High Commissioner recommends that military authorities:

(a) Cease immediately all violence and attacks directed against the people of Myanmar and civilian infrastructures across the country, in compliance with Security Council resolution S/RES/2669(2022);

(b) Ensure full compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law and, in particular, refrain from planting anti-personnel landmines which are inherently indiscriminate weapons greatly contributing to the suffering of the civilian population. Accurate recording and marking must be implemented and, whenever possible, implement humanitarian demining activities. 

(c)  Release immediately all those arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and/or sentenced, particularly those deprived of liberty for carrying out humanitarian action, as well as those who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Discontinue politically-motivated prosecutions of all persons expressing opposition to the military’s assertion of power;

(d) Immediately cease implementation of the unilateral amendments made to the 2014 Organizations Registration Law and all other actions aimed at restricting humanitarian and civic space and ensure that humanitarian organizations have unrestricted and predictable access to all people-in-need across the country without fear of retaliation for the exercise of rights;

(e)  Take all prompt and necessary action, including in the banking and financial sectors, to guarantee the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of food and healthcare products and services essential to meet the pressing needs of all people in Myanmar, without any discrimination. 

  1. The High Commissioner further recommends to the National Unity Government and other duty-bearers:

(a) Take all steps to protect the civilian population, including stopping the use of inherently indiscriminate explosive devices, investigate reports of human rights violations, and take all adequate measures to ensure full compliance with international law by members of anti-military armed groups under their control;                

(b) Refrain from imposing physical or administrative restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people-in-need in the areas under their control;

(c)  Allow unrestricted access to humanitarian organizations to assess needs and develop responses on accurate and evidence-based data;

  1. The High Commissioner recommends that the Security Council, also in view of the documented disregard by the military of resolution S/RES/2669 (2022), take steps to refer the full scope of the current situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court;
  2. Further, the High Commissioner recommends that the Security Council, ASEAN, and other Member States:

(a) Maintain continuous attention to the situation on the ground and take necessary steps to promote political solutions to end the crisis and guarantee access to all people in need of life-saving assistance in the shortest possible time given the gravity of the situation;

(b) Take urgent action to ensure that the Humanitarian Response Plan is adequately funded to provide humanitarian organizations with necessary resources to meet the compelling demands of the people in Myanmar;  

(c)  Ensure adequate funding for the “2023 Joint Response Plan: Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis” to ensure that members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh receive life-saving humanitarian assistance;

(d) Provide flexible direct funding to local humanitarian organizations to support their ability to assist the population-in-need with life-saving aid and services;

(e)  Advocate for meaningful access to OHCHR in the country to facilitate independent and impartial monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation, including on civilian protection and humanitarian actions.


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