UNPO: UN Human Rights Council Briefed on Human Rights in BURMA
Mr Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, has presented his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Mr. Pinheiro’s report focused on the difficulties associated with the government’s continued refusal to permit further fact-finding missions, and highlighted the continued persecution of political opposition.
The Special Rapporteur also drew attention to the campaigns at present being waged against ethnic minorities within Myanmar, including the Karenni State, who are members of UNPO. The case of the Karen was also further pressed by Finland on behalf of the European Union during the ensuing Interactive Dialogue.
Following the Special Rapporteur’s report, the International Peace Bureau made a statement to the Council, drawing attention to the arrest and detention of three well-respected student leaders of 1988 generation, Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe. Bearing in mind the prevalence of actions of this nature, the International Peace Bureau appealed to the Council to maintain its pressure on the government of Myanmar by continuing the Special Rapporteur’s country-specific mandate. Their full statement can be read at the bottom of this page.
Below is the International Service for Human Rights’ (ISHR) summary of the Special Rapporteur’s report. Details on the proceedings of all sessions of the Human Rights Council are available from their daily “Council Monitor”.
Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar:
“Mr Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, presented his annual report to the Council The Special Rapporteur reminded the Council that he had not been permitted to conduct a fact-finding mission to Myanmar since November 2003. He stated that he continued to fulfil his mandate to the best of his ability based on information collected from a variety of independent and reliable sources. He expressed his pleasure that the Government of Myanmar had replied to a number of communications in recent months and hoped that this cooperation would extend to an invitation to visit the country before his mandate comes to an end. He stated that the reform process proposed in the ‘seven-point road map for national reconciliation and democratic transition’ had been strictly limited. He stressed that national reconciliation could not occur without a meaningful and inclusive dialogue with and between all political representatives. The persecution of members of political parties in the opposition and human rights defenders were contrary to a genuine transition process. The Rapporteur highlighted the situation of the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and stated that her incarceration had been extended in spite of international appeals, including from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He stated that space for the establishment of civilian and democratic institutions had been seriously curtailed, and that grave human rights violations were occurring not only with impunity but authorised by the sanction of laws. He expressed particular concern about the criminalisation of the exercise of fundamental freedoms by political opponents, human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses. He noted some progress in the area of forced labour with the Government’s collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on three complaints. Mr Pinheiro expressed concern at the ongoing military campaigns in ethnic areas of Myanmar and warned that as a result of the military campaign, numerous cases of forced evictions, relocations and internal displacement had been reported. He urged the international community to act on the human rights situation in Myanmar and not to wait for the ‘political normalisation’ of the country before doing something. He criticised the actions of the Global Fund to end funding of health programmes in Myanmar and thanked the EU for their efforts to fund health projects. He noted the Security Council’s inclusion of Myanmar on its agenda. He stated that although there was an urgent necessity to better coordinate different approaches among States to find ways of contributing to the process of transition towards democracy in Myanmar.”
“Myanmar welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s observations about positive developments in the country. They challenged a number of the allegations in his report, stating that such allegations had been received from a few remaining insurgent groups and foreign funded expatriate groups with hidden political agendas. Regarding democratisation, they stated that the National Convention had completed 75%of its work. They stated that the Government was restoring economic stability and national solidarity. As they are not in an armed conflict, they rejected the Special Rapporteur’s assertion about the large numbers of internally displaced persons. Myanmar also pointed to the recent visit of the Under Secretary-General of the United Nations.”
“India reiterated its opposition to country-specific mandates, stating that they were counterproductive and usually had negative outcomes. Several States thought it was important to recognise the increased cooperation of the Myanmar Government and expressed their encouragement for further dialogue. New Zealand also enquired about how the international community could do more to promote increased dialogue. Some States expressed their disappointment that Myanmar had not invited the Special Rapporteur to visit. Several delegations also expressed concern about ongoing violations and called on Myanmar to do more to resolve the situation of human rights. Australia expressed concern at Myanmar’s lack of commitment and stated that ongoing developments, such as the establishment of the National Convention, would have not credibility without an open debate. The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of inclusion of all parties in the democratisation process. The USA asked the Special Rapporteur what it would take for all political prisoners to be released. Finland, on behalf of the EU, asked for the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the current situation in the Northern Karen State and Eastern Pegu Division, areas where the Government had been conducting counter-insurgency operations. They also requested for more information on any new development involving forced labour and forced recruitment of children. The Special Rapporteur stressed that although he continued to receive allegations of cases of forced labour, he felt that the situation could be resolved with the help of the ILO. Peru asked the Special Rapporteur for his opinion on the inclusion of Myanmar on the agenda of the Security Council, and whether the situation in the country constituted a threat to the region as a whole. Canada asked how the international community could aid those members of Myanmar civil society who are helping to deal with the situation of internally displaced persons. The Special Rapporteur reiterated the need for Myanmar to grant basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and urged the Government to accept his mandate. He also urged the international community to act but once again stated that there was not only one approach and it was more important that different approaches and efforts be coordinated.”
“At the end of the day three NGOs made statements on the situation in Myanmar, highlighting the continued detention of Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi, as well as the arrest several hours earlier today of three well respected student leaders. The NGOs called on the Council to take action, and pointed to the changes brought by country-specific mandates in other situations.”
The full statement from the International Peace Bureau to the Human Rights Council: