NEW YORK (26 October 2017) – The UN Security Council should issue a strongly worded resolution on the Myanmar crisis, the Special Rapporteur on the country’s human rights has told the UN General Assembly in New York.
“The crisis in Rakhine State has not only been decades in the making but has for some time gone beyond Myanmar’s borders. For a very long time now this issue has not been simply a domestic affair,” said Yanghee Lee.
The Special Rapporteur condemned the widespread use of hate speech against the Rohingyas and other communities, stressing that it amounted to incitement to hostility and even violence.
“It has been cultivated for decades in the minds of the Myanmar people that the Rohingya are not indigenous to the country and therefore have no rights whatsoever to which they can apparently claim,” Ms. Lee said, presenting her full report to the General Assembly.
The Special Rapporteur said she was concerned about how long it might take for the Government to establish conditions for the “safe and dignified” return of the Rohingyas, and to ensure they could rebuild their lives.
It was essential that all those responsible for human rights violations were held to account, Ms. Lee said, and this should begin with full access for the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission.
The Special Rapporteur said the plight of the Rohingyas remained her main concern, but Myanmar had numerous other human rights challenges.
Many communities had suffered from the development of “Special Economic Zones” and some people had had land confiscated, she said. Meanwhile civilians in Kachin and Shan States were affected by reported clashes between the armed forces and ethnic armed groups, amid increasing allegations of serious rights violations and decreasing humanitarian access.
Ms. Lee said it was unclear whether Myanmar’s peace process had advanced since the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement two years ago.
Consistent reports about incidents of religious intolerance against Christians and Muslims had also reached her from across the country, she added.
The Special Rapporteur urged the government to publicly embrace all the communities which make up the population of Myanmar and use its majority in Parliament to strike down all discriminatory laws, to show that all groups in Myanmar have equal rights.
A recent public show of inter-faith solidarity could also be built on by the government to combat prejudice and bigotry, she said.
“I have in the past commended Myanmar’s flourishing, widening democratic space. However, it seems to me that national legislation is effectively resulting in the criminalization of legitimate expression,” the expert added.
She urged the government to press ahead with constitutional reform “to allow for proper operation of the rule of law”, and to prioritize the reform of laws that contravened international human rights standards, noting that Myanmar had recently ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. 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.
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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
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