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UN experts urge Myanmar to address serious violations of human rights in northern Rakhine State

GENEVA (24 October 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the Government of Myanmar to address the growing reports of human rights violations in northern Rakhine State following the attacks on 9 October 2016 by armed individuals against three Border Guard Police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships, and subsequent security operations in search of suspected attackers.

“In the aftermath of the attacks, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has rightly called for proper investigations to be conducted and for no one to be accused until solid evidence is obtained,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. “Instead, we receive repeated allegations of arbitrary arrests as well as extrajudicial killings occurring within the context of the security operations conducted by the authorities in search of the alleged attackers.”

“What troubles me most is the lack of access for a proper assessment of the true picture of the situation there at the present moment. The blanket security operations have restricted access for humanitarian actors with concerning consequences for communities’ ability to secure food and conduct livelihood activities,” the expert emphasised.

Regarding allegations of summary executions of civilians, including of children, during the searches and raids conducted as part of the police and military forces’ security operations, the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, reminded the Government of its obligations.

“While the State has the legitimate authority and power to carry out operations to pursue the alleged perpetrators of the 9 October attacks, such crimes should be investigated and prosecuted in a court of law and not dealt with violence,” Ms. Callamard said.

“Reports of homes and mosques being burnt down and persons of a certain profile being rounded up and shot are alarming and unacceptable,” she stated. “The authorities cannot justify simply shooting suspects down on the basis of the seriousness of the crime alone. The authorities have the duty to take concrete measures to prevent extrajudicial killings in the country, not to perpetuate them.”

Ms. Callamard further recalled “the duty to conduct thorough and impartial investigations of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, including those reportedly carried out by state agents.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, also expressed serious concerns about the displacement of large populations from affected areas as a result of the security operations. “The authorities must allow access for humanitarian actors to be able to undertake a needs assessment and continue delivering assistance and aid, as well as ensure that the protection, needs and wellbeing of affected populations are urgently and properly addressed,” Mr. Beyani said.

“All internally displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to food and potable water, basic shelter and housing, and essential medical services and sanitation, without discrimination,” the expert stressed.

The UN experts concluded by urging the Government to undertake proper and thorough investigations of alleged violations as well as implement concerted efforts to fight and prevent acts of incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence against minorities, while still upholding internationally recognised human rights standards.

The experts’ call has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.

The UN 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, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council 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. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

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

For more information and media requests, please contact Azwa Petra (+41 22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.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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