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Burma: Government’s Response to UN review “Extremely Disappointing”

By ALTSEAN-Burma and FIDH  •  March 17, 2016

Paris, Bangkok, 17 March 2016: Burma’s extremely disappointing response to its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN confirmed the outgoing government’s unwillingness to address the country’s key human rights challenges, FIDH and its member organization ALTSEAN-Burma said today.

“The outgoing administration’s refusal to accept key human rights recommendations is extremely disappointing and shows the government only paid lip service to the UPR process. The new government must mark a clear break with the past and take significant steps to implement all the crucial recommendations that Burma received,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

Burma’s second UPR was held on 6 November 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the government’s full response to the review, released on 10 March 2016, Burma accepted 166 of the 281 recommendations it received from other states.

The government’s blanket denial that it had ever engaged in any discriminatory practices based on race or religion was accompanied by a refusal to accept numerous recommendations that called on the authorities to address discrimination and incitement of hatred against religious minorities, including Muslims, and to protect their rights. The government also refused to accept 10 recommendations that called for the amendment or repeal of the four discriminatory ‘Race and Religion Protection Laws’.

The government refused to accept all 27 recommendations that made specific reference to Muslim Rohingya, including those that called for the protection of their fundamental human rights and an end to discrimination. In addition, Naypyidaw did not accept 16 recommendations that urged the authorities to address the issue of citizenship rights for ethnic and religious minorities, including Rohingya. Five of these recommendations called for the amendment of the 1982 Citizenship Law.

Despite its pledge to guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to create a “safe and enabling environment” for civil society and human rights defenders (HRDs), the government did not accept four recommendations that called for the amendment of the Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration Law – a law that authorities continue to use to arbitrarily arrest and imprison activists and HRDs. The government also reverted to junta-era claims that there were no political prisoners in the country and refused to accept seven recommendations that called for the release of all political prisoners.

Thein Sein’s administration also shunned cooperation with UN human rights monitoring mechanisms. Naypyidaw did not accept six recommendations that called on the government to issue a standing invitation to all thematic special procedures. The government also refused to accept seven recommendations concerning the opening of a country office of the UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

With regard to the death penalty, the government did not accept nine recommendations that called for the establishment of a moratorium on all executions and the abolition of capital punishment. However, in a clearly contradictory move, Naypyidaw accepted three recommendations that called for the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which aims to abolish the death penalty.

Finally, the government refused to accept five recommendations that called for the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“After failing to make significant progress in the implementation of most of the recommendations that Burma accepted five years ago, Thein Sein’s administration used the UPR process to deny the existence of discrimination against Rohingya, ignore impunity for human rights violations, and gloss over its failure to promote legislative reform,” said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.

Many of the recommendations that Burma accepted during its second UPR were related to the ratification of key international human rights instruments, including the ICCPR, the Convention Again Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) (a total of 41 recommendations). Other recommendations that Burma accepted included nine recommendations that called for the reform of the National Human Rights Commission to make the body compliant with the Paris Principles. However, similar recommendations that the government accepted after Burma’s first UPR in early 2011 remain unaddressed.

The government was inconsistent in addressing violence against women and impunity. It accepted nine recommendations that called on the authorities to address the issue of violence against women – including sexual violence – and five recommendations that called on the government to combat impunity for human rights violations. However, the government then indicated its unwillingness to promote accountability when it objected to three recommendations that called on the authorities to address the issue of impunity for human rights violations committed by members of the military, including acts of sexual violence.

For more information contact:

Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)

Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) – Tel: +33672284294 (Paris)

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This post is in: Press Release

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