Conditions for Untold Numbers of Innocent People in Myanmar Have Gone from Bad to Worse to Horrific, Special Rapporteur Tells Human Rights Council – OHCHR

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Press releases Human Rights Council
21 September 2022
Council Concludes General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
 
Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the Human Rights Council this afternoon that conditions for untold numbers of innocent people in Myanmar had gone from bad to worse to horrific.  Around 1.3 million people had been displaced; and the military had destroyed more than 28,000 homes, burning entire villages to the ground.  The number of innocent people who had been killed or injured by landmines was rising significantly.  There was a looming food crisis and a dramatic increase in childhood malnutrition; women were losing economic and social gains; and 130,000 Rohingya remained confined in de facto internment camps.
Mr. Andrews said the people of Myanmar were frustrated and angered by Member States that were working to prop up this illegal and brutal military junta with funding, trade, weapons, and a veneer of legitimacy.  They were also disappointed by those nations that voiced support for them, but then failed to back up their words with action.  The international response to this deepening crisis had failed.  Member States needed to take stronger, more effective action to deprive the junta and its forces of revenue, weapons and legitimacy.  A coalition of nations needed to be established that could build a coordinated strategy on the crisis.
Conflict was spreading throughout Myanmar, with more and more civilians taking up arms against the junta, said Mr. Andrews.  Ethnic armed organizations were increasingly engaging junta forces.  Clashes between the Arakan Army and junta forces were escalating.  Newly formed People’s Defence Forces were now attacking the military throughout the country.  The junta was deeply unpopular in every corner of Myanmar.  The junta was using aid as a weapon by obstructing deliveries to displaced populations and communities that they perceived to be aligned with pro-democracy forces.  Untold numbers of innocent people had been left without access to food, medicine and the means to survive.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers said that for the past five years, the human rights situation in Myanmar had been catastrophic.  The illegal coup of 2021 had plunged the country into a situation in which the entire population was held hostage by the military junta.  Mass atrocities continued to be committed against the entire population.  Full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access was essential for all persons in need.  It was necessary to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel, and to create the necessary conditions for a voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  The conflict also threatened peace and stability in the region, including India and in Bangladesh, where a durable solution had not been found to the Rohingya refugee crisis. 
One speaker said not listening to the State concerned ran counter to the Human Rights Council’s commitment to peaceful cooperation, and there should be understanding for the situation of Myanmar, and therefore the international community should seek means for cooperation.  The unilateral coercive measures imposed on Myanmar should be lifted immediately.  The Human Rights Council should cease to use politicised mandates against countries of the South, as they ran counter to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, and should tackle issues around the world in a cooperative and lasting manner.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Luxembourg on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Sierra Leone, Republic of Korea, France, Australia, India, Austria, and Venezuela.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on agenda item three on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. 
Some speakers said that the protection and promotion of human rights was vital, and only when the right to development was guaranteed could there be guarantees of the other human rights.  Economic, social and cultural rights were vital in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which had pushed millions into poverty and unemployment, showing the weakened public system.  The impact of this crisis and the environmental crisis had shown that this was a key moment in human history.  Human rights had to be integrated in all recovery processes and plans, and the international human rights framework should be used in the progress towards a more harmonious international system in harmony with the environment, ensuring the survival of humanity.
Speaking in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: Law Council of Australia on behalf of International Bar Association, Disability Association of Tavana, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Soka Gakkai International on behalf of Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Mouvement National des Jeunes Patriotes du Mali, China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Direitos Humanos, YouChange China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture on behalf of Advocates for Human Rights and Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, China Foundation for Human Rights Development, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Centre Europe – tiers monde, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), Friends World Committee for Consultation, Youth Parliament for SDG, Asociacion HazteOir.org, China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetian Culture (CAPDTC), Make Mothers Matter, Edmund Rice International Limited, Shaanxi Patriotic Volunteer Association, Centre for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment, Physicians for Human Rights, Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), and Association pour la défense des droits de l’homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran – « ARC ».
Also speaking were Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Organization for Poverty Alleviation and Development, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII on behalf of a group of organisations, Meezaan Center for Human Rights, Interfaith International, Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, Peace Track Initiative, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’hommeAssociation Internationale pour l’égalité des femmes, Tumuku Development and Cultural Union (TACUDU), Beijing Guangming Charity Foundation, Il Cenacolo, Global Welfare Association, United Nations Association of China, Partners For Transparency, Al-Ayn Social Care Foundation, Jubilee Campaign, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuplesCaritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), Al Baraem Association for Charitable Work, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Africa Culture Internationale, World Muslim Congress, Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, International Muslim Women’s Union, Peace Brigades International, International Union of Socialist Youth, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Sikh Human Rights Group, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Beijing Changier Education Foundation, Promotion du Développement Economique et Social – PDES, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés (OIPMA), International Action for Peace & Sustainable Development, Global Appreciation and Skills Training Network, and iuventum e.V..
Also taking the floor were African Green Foundation International, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Iraqi Development Organization, Alsalam Foundation, Villages Unis (United Villages), Chunhui Children’s Foundation, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, PRAHAR, Anglican Consultative Council, solidarité Suisse-GuinéeAssociation D’Entraide Médicale GuinéeZero Pauvre AfriqueSynergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable, Community Human Rights and Advocacy Centre (CHRAC), and Commission africaine des promoteurs de la santé et des droits de l’homme
Speaking in right of reply were the United States, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, and Armenia.
The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-first regular session can be found here.
The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 22 September, when it will conclude the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  This will be followed by an interactive dialogue on the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Myanmar.
General Debate on Agenda Item Three on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development
The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, started in the previous meting and a summary can be found here.
General Debate
In the debate, many speakers said that the protection and promotion of human rights was vital, and only when the right to development was guaranteed could there be guarantees of the other human rights.  States should engage civil society and recognise lacunae in their protection of human rights, and take more seriously the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by monitoring their impact on the ground. 
States had a major responsibility to create ripe conditions, at the international and national levels, to ensure the right to development, including combatting militarism and attacks on the international system.  Unilateral coercive measures should not be used to implement iniquitous systems; there should be an inclusive international system based on the respect of human rights.  Some Member States had not participated in the elaboration on a draft convention on the right to development, which was regretted, as it was essential for the implementation and guarantees of the right.  The text should be progressive enough for the expectations for a text drafted in the modern period to be fulfilled.
The staggering challenges facing the world required international efforts to review the economic integration of countries as a priority to ensure economic balance and development, as well as food security, which was still hanging in the balance.  The challenges were fundamental, and were related to the right to development as well as the need to meet environmental challenges whilst ensuring sustainable development. 
Governments should respect and observe the independence of the judiciary, and ensure that proceedings were undertaken in an accountable and transparent manner.  All States had obligations under international law on arms transfers, and should respect these rights, and the risk of arms being used against children should be assessed at sales.
There was concern for the situation of elderly persons living in countries under international sanctions, as there was for persons with disabilities, who found access to resources and aid limited by the sanctions.  All vulnerable people and groups should be protected to a greater extent, including from economic declines.  Human rights education was vital for helping those in situations of danger and vulnerability. There should be a Special Rapporteur for unilateral coercive measures.
Economic, social and cultural rights were vital in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which had pushed millions into poverty and unemployment, showing the weakened public system.  The impact of this crisis and the environmental crisis had shown that this was a key moment in human history.  Human rights had to be integrated in all recovery processes and plans, and the international human rights framework should be used in the progress towards a more harmonious international system in harmony with the environment, ensuring the survival of humanity. Economic, social and cultural rights were basic rights, which covered many rights, including access to safe housing and drinking water, and the right to development was essential for achieving these rights.
The pandemic had disproportionately affected youth, and the digital divide had excluded many from a digital education, particularly girls.  The pandemic had taken a toll on the mental health of young people, leaving them unable to contribute to society.  It had hindered youth volunteering.  A Special Rapporteur on youth and an annual youth forum should be created to advance and mainstream youth rights, including the right to decent work.  The Human Rights Council must play a driving role in ensuring the rights of young people.
The right to freedom of expression was enshrined in many international instruments, however, around the world many organizations, including those of the media, did not hesitate to insult those who asserted this right, seeking to limit the rights and freedoms of those who asserted their rights through various means, including violent ones.
The right to objection to military service was of concern, as there were still some States that did not recognise this right, forcing objectors to flee their own countries.  The right deteriorated further in situations of armed conflict.  Freedoms of thought, conscience and religion were non-derogable, and the work of the Council was vital for the protection of these rights, which were relevant to the right to conscientious objection to military service.
Gender and sexual violence were used against human rights defenders, and to repress opponents in various areas of the world, and many journalists faced discrimination and harassment.  Tough measures should be applied to those States violating the rights of journalists and media workers.  Human rights defenders found their ability to act restricted, with a lack of security and access to justice, with direct repercussions on their ability to function effectively.  Human rights defenders were vital for the protection of human rights, and should be protected, as without them, there could be no achievement of rights; State legislation restricting the scope of their activities must be erased.
Other issues raised included that natural resources were being exploited, resulting in the economic deprivation of indigenous people, with concomitant effects on their health and extreme poverty.  Further, a tragic reality faced migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees seeking safety in Europe, and there should be prompt, impartial and independent investigations into their deaths, as well as into the trafficking of migrants.  Sexual minorities remained persecuted in many areas of the world, and they could suffer life imprisonment or even death, and the Council should examine these situations and ensure that the States involved respected the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex plus persons and groups, whilst punishing crimes committed against them.  Illegal migration had a serious impact on indigenous rights, due to forced integration and assimilation, and caused great misery.  The Human Rights Council should examine this issue in order to better safeguard the human rights of indigenous people.  The Council should put pressure on militias to release all those in arbitrary detention.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
Presentation
THOMAS ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that conditions had gone from bad to worse to horrific for untold numbers of innocent people in Myanmar.  Around 1.3 million people had been displaced; the military had destroyed more than 28,000 homes, burning entire villages to the ground.  The number of innocent people who had been killed or injured by landmines was rising significantly.  There was a looming food crisis and a dramatic increase in childhood malnutrition; women were losing economic and social gains; and 130,000 Rohingya remained confined in de facto internment camps. 
The people of Myanmar were frustrated and angered by Member States that were working to prop up this illegal and brutal military junta with funding, trade, weapons, and a veneer of legitimacy.  They were also disappointed by those nations that voiced support for them, but then failed to back up their words with action.  The Myanmar military was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity daily, including sexual violence, torture, deliberate targeting of civilians, and murder.  The junta was holding at least 84 political prisoners on death row; and more than 12,000, including 295 children, remained arbitrarily detained in deplorable conditions, subject to torture.
Conflict was spreading throughout the country, with more and more civilians taking up arms against the junta.  Clashes between the Arakan Army and junta forces were escalating.  Newly formed People’s Defence Forces were now attacking the military throughout the country.  The junta was deeply unpopular in every corner of Myanmar.  The junta was using aid as a weapon by obstructing deliveries to displaced populations and communities that they perceived to be aligned with pro-democracy forces.  Untold numbers of innocent people had been left without access to food, medicine and the means to survive.
The international response to this deepening crisis had failed.  Member States needed to take stronger, more effective action to deprive the junta and its forces of revenue, weapons and legitimacy.  A coalition of nations needed to be established that could build a coordinated strategy on the crisis.  The amount of humanitarian aid that was available to address the crisis was grossly inadequate.  More than 80 per cent of the United Nations Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan remained unfunded.  Local organizations needed strong support and flexibility from Member States and donors.  The crisis was forcing many to flee Myanmar, embarking on perilous journeys across land and sea, and it was imperative that the Governments of host countries and the international community protected their human rights.
Mr. Andrews said that he had spoken with more than 100 Myanmar human rights defenders, pro-democracy activists, aid workers, youth leaders, and women’s rights advocates.  He had been deeply inspired by their courage and their tireless efforts to resist the illegal military junta.  These people needed the world’s support.  Many in Myanmar had come to the conclusion that the world had forgotten them, or simply did not care.  The people of Myanmar desperately needed all Member States to re-think status quo policies that were clearly not working, and to stand with and for them as they fought for their lives, their children, and their future.
Discussion
In the ensuing discussion, speakers said, among other things, that for the past five years, the human rights situation in Myanmar had been catastrophic.  The illegal coup of 2021 had plunged the country into a situation in which the entire population was held hostage by the military junta.  Mass atrocities continued to be committed against the entire population.  Full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access was essential for all persons in need.  It was necessary to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and to create the necessary conditions for a voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  All acts of violence against civilians must end, including sexual and gender-based violence, and violence against women, children, human rights defenders, religious minorities, journalists and media workers.  All those arbitrarily detained must be released immediately and unconditionally.  All United Nations Member States should end all supply, sale and transfer of arms to the Myanmar armed and security forces.
Some speakers said that the conflict in Myanmar also threatened peace and stability in the region, including India and in Bangladesh, where a durable solution had not been found to the Rohingya refugee crisis.  There should be meaningful accountability, justice, and a permanent solution to the crisis, with an immediate end to the violations against all inhabitants of Myanmar, including the Rohingya, who should have their citizenship restored, and should be repatriated to their country immediately and without delay, in full security.  The complete human rights catastrophe continued, and there should be an immediate end to all mass killings, torture, including of children, and gender- and sexually-based violence.  The military should restore the de facto moratorium on the death penalty, and release all political prisoners, including minors, whilst ensuring justice and reparation for victims.  Further acts of violence against unarmed civilians should cease immediately, and the country should be allowed to return to democratic rule.  The international community needed to take further steps to halt the deteriorating situation.
A number of speakers said the efforts of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the United Nations Mission in Myanmar were applauded, as was the Bangladesh Government’s sustained efforts to provide for the needs of the Rohingya people it hosted.  International efforts should continue to find a peaceful solution to the problem.  The Special Rapporteur was commended for his work and his commitment to shedding light on the situation.  The international community needed to remain committed to restoring peace and security to Myanmar.  A peaceful solution involving all stakeholders was the only way forward towards resolving the humanitarian and national crisis.
One speaker said that not listening to the State concerned ran counter to the Human Rights Council’s commitment to peaceful cooperation.  The report was lopsided and contained allegations that were unverifiable.  Politicised mandates did nothing to advance human rights, and should be rooted out of the work of the Human Rights Council.  The unilateral coercive measures imposed on Myanmar should be lifted immediately.  The Human Rights Council should cease to use politicised mandates against countries of the South, as they ran counter to the spirit of the United Nations Charter, and should tackle issues around the world in a cooperative and lasting manner.
 
Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/09/afternoon-conditions-untold-numbers-innocent-people-myanmar-have
 
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Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.

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