6 January 2017 – An independent United Nations expert will assess the human rights situation in Myanmar starting next week. The announcement comes shortly after the top UN human rights official warned that the Government’s “short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous” approach to the handling of the crisis could have grave long-term repercussions for the country and the region.
Ethnic Rakhine people shelter in a stadium in Sittwe. Photo: Joe Freeman/IRIN | Source: UN News Centre
An independent United Nations expert will assess the human rights situation in Myanmar starting next week, it was announced, following increasing concerns about civilians in Kachin State and the escalating violence in Rakhine State.*
“The events of the last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation there,” on 6 January 2017 said Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country.
The 12-day visit, at the invitation of the Government, will include meetings political and community leaders, civil society, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community.
Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Starting on 9 January, this will be Lee’s fifth visit to Myanmar. She plans to visit Myitkyina, Hpakant and Laiza in Kachin State, where civilians are caught in fighting between the Myanmar army and an armed group.
“The escalation in fighting in Kachin and Shan, with its inevitable negative impact on the situation of civilians, is causing some disquiet regarding the direction that the new Government is taking in its first year of administration,” Lee said.
She will also gather information in Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Rakhine State, as well as Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon.
Last month, the top UN human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that he was deeply disappointed by a lack of access to some of the worst areas in northern Rakhine, particularly given numerous alarming allegations of rights violations, including killings, rapes and the burning of homes belonging to the Rohingya minority group.
A report from the visit will be presented in March to the UN Human Rights Council, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. Ms. Lee’s position is honorary and she does not receive a salary for her work. (*SOURCE: UN).
Myanmar’s Government’s “short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous” approach
Expressing concern over the situation in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine, the top United Nations human rights official on On 16 December 2016, warned that the Government’s “short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous” approach to the handling of the crisis could have grave long-term repercussions for the country and the region.**
Residents of the Thet Kae Pyin camp for displaced people in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar. (file) Photo: OCHA/P.Peron
In a news release today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that he was deeply disappointed that access by his Office (OHCHR) to some of the worst areas in northern Rakhine had still not been approved, particularly given numerous alarming allegations of rights violations, including killings, rapes and the burning of Rohingya homes.
“The repeated dismissal of the claims of serious human rights violations as fabrications, coupled with the failure to allow our independent monitors access to the worst affected areas in northern Rakhine, is highly insulting to the victims and an abdication of the Government’s obligations under international human rights law,” Zeid said.
“If the authorities have nothing to hide, then why is there such reluctance to grant us access? Given the continued failure to grant us access, we can only fear the worst,” he added.
Noting that the country’s handling of the crisis in northern Rakhine “is a lesson in how to make a bad situation worse,” Zeid called on the authorities to reflect on the best approach towards a durable resolution to the long-standing grievances of different communities in northern Rakhine.
Further in the release, he also strongly condemned attacks on border police posts in early October by armed assailants as well as the killing of a senior army officer on 12 November.
“These are serious crimes for which the individual perpetrators and their masterminds must be brought to account with full respect of their right to due process,” the High Commissioner stressed.
“But accounts we have received suggest that security forces may have imposed collective punishment on an entire community, with reprisals against already vulnerable Rohingya Muslims continuing more than two months after the border post attacks, causing some 27,000 people to flee across the border into Bangladesh,” he added.
“Sadly, the world today is full of examples where States have responded to security breaches with heavy-handed military responses, with little or no regard for the root causes. The results have been catastrophic, with mass displacement, the nurturing of violent extremism, and everybody ultimately losing,” he cautioned.
He also urged the Government to accept the international community’s offer of support to help resolve the crisis as well as by his Office to provide training and assistance to authorities in improving the human rights situation for all the people of Myanmar. (**SOURCE: UN).
2017 Human Wrongs Watch