Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

Why the Special Rapporteur is Needed as Much as Ever

Originally appeared in The Myanmar Times

March 17, 2014

An open letter from 47 Myanmar civil society organisations to member states of the UN Human Rights Council calling on the council to maintain a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar.

We, a diverse range of civil society organizations from Myanmar, are writing to you in advance of the upcoming 25th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to express our serious concerns about the lack of progress made regarding the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and to urge the council to maintain the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar under agenda item 4 of the council in its upcoming session.

It is vital to maintain pressure on the Myanmar government to ensure that it continues with its reforms, and addresses grave ongoing issues such as constitutional reform, inter-communal violence, the lack of rule of law, repressive legislation, land confiscation and gross human rights abuses in ethnic areas as a matter of extreme urgency.

These concerns were also raised by the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, at the conclusion of his final mission to Myanmar. His end-of-mission statement, issued at Rangoon International Airport on February 19, provides a thematic summary of the most pressing human rights issues that Myanmar currently faces.

Mr Quintana’s statement highlights two salient points. First, the human rights situation in Myanmar is still very serious, with little or no progress made in some areas. As Mr Quintana said, “For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of Myanmar. State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of government. Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in Myanmar. Tackling the situation in Rakhine State represents a particular challenge which, if left unaddressed, could jeopardise the entire reform process. A critical challenge will be to secure ceasefire and political agreements with ethnic minority groups, so that Myanmar can finally transform into a peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.”

In other areas, such as “the release of prisoners of conscience, the opening up of space for freedom of expression, the development of political freedoms, and important progress in securing an end to fighting in the ethnic border areas”, reforms are in danger of backsliding.

Second, it is clear that the special rapporteur plays a vital role in monitoring what is happening inside Myanmar, presenting his findings to the council and submitting recommendations for action. It is disingenuous to make the argument that Myanmar no longer requires a special rapporteur mandate based only on incomplete reforms in certain areas, such as the release of political prisoners. Set among the spread of unsavoury issues on Myanmar’s plate, such reforms are little more than garnish intended to make Myanmar palatable to the international community.

Not only is a special rapporteur still entirely necessary, the rapporteur should have a full monitoring mandate under agenda item 4 of the council to ensure there is continued monitoring and reporting to the council on human rights developments in Myanmar.

At the same time, the need for the establishment of a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presence in Myanmar is indicated by the litany of

human rights concerns. Anything less than an office with a full promotion and protection mandate cannot currently be justified.

We understand that the UN and the Myanmar government are currently at an impasse regarding the establishment of an OHCHR office, with the Myanmar government unwilling to accept an office with a full mandate. We further understand that the Myanmar government is trying to negotiate, as part of such discussions, a reduction in the mandate of the special rapporteur – to a mandate under agenda item 10 which entails only “technical cooperation” – or the abolition of the special rapporteur mandate altogether.

Direct action by the UN and international institutions is essential, and your commitment to achieve peace, democracy, human rights, equality and rule of law for all people of Myanmar is crucial. Failure to do so will only perpetuate long-standing human rights abuses, entrenched impunity, armed conflicts, and political and humanitarian crises faced by the people of Myanmar. We thank you for considering our requests in the upcoming Council session.

Yours sincerely,
Burma Partnership, Equality Myanmar, Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, and All Kachin Students and Youth Union

 View the original article here

This post is in: Human Rights, News Clip