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Myanmar: UN expert to assess human rights situation in Rakhine and Northern Shan States

GENEVA (5 January 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her second official visit to the country from 7-16 January 2015. Ms. Lee will gather first-hand information on the current human rights situation in the Rakhine and Northern Shan States, among other issues.

“I will review the situation in the camps for internally displaced persons and in isolated locations in the Rakhine State, to assess if there has been improvement in the critical conditions I came across on my first visit to Myanmar in July 2014,” she said.

The human rights expert will meet the Chief Minister of the Rakhine State to discuss current developments toward peace, stability and the rule of law, including the Rakhine Action Plan. She will meet as well with community leaders in the context of intercommunal tensions and efforts towards reconciliation.

“In the Northern Shan State, I will look at the human rights situation of religious and ethnic minorities,” Ms. Lee noted. “I will also speak with various parties about the situation of sexual and gender based violence in the context of the ongoing conflict in this region”.

The independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will also assess progress on the authorities’ commitments towards democratic reform. She will also review issues related to freedom of association and the media, as well as land disputes and protests against development projects.

“I will pay special attention to the significant human rights concerns raised by the package of four bills on protection of race and religion, which contain provisions that do not meet international human rights standards,” Ms. Lee stressed. “I am deeply concerned that if passed, these four bills will legitimize discrimination, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities, and against women”.

With Myanmar now in an electoral year, the Special Rapporteur will also discuss progress in the democratic process with authorities and civil society to encourage these forthcoming national elections to be transparent, inclusive, participatory, free and fair.

During her ten-day visit, the expert will meet with Government officials, members of Parliament and the judiciary, the National Human Rights commission and civil society in Naypyitaw and Yangon. She also intends to visit political prisoners that remain in detention.

The Special Rapporteur, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, expressed her appreciation of the open engagement and cooperation that has been offered in the preparation of this mission. Ms. Lee will submit a report to the Human Rights Council in April 2015

A press conference will be held at the end of the Special Rapporteur’s visit on Friday 16 January from 5-6pm at the Sedona Hotel, Yankin Ballroom in Yangon.

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva (before and after the mission): Sabina Lauber (+41 22 928 9473 / slauber@ohchr.org)
In Yangon (during the mission, 7 to 16 January): U Aye Win, National Information Officer (+95 94 210 60343 /wina@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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