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Human Rights Council holds dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Myanmar and starts dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Syria

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22 September 2020

​22 September 2020

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS DIALOGUE WITH SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR AND STARTS DIALOGUE WITH COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, and started an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

During the presentation of the oral update on Myanmar, Myanmar spoke in a point of order. The following countries then took the floor, also speaking in point of order : Venezuela, China, Belarus, Australia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Cuba, Germany, Japan and Bangladesh.

Venezuela tabled a no-action motion to prevent the showing of the images included in the Special Rapporteur's recorded video message. The Council considered and rejected by a roll-call vote of 25 in favour, 1 against and 9 abstentions, a motion to reverse the Council Bureau's decision to allow the Special Rapporteur to use the photographs.

Myanmar spoke as a concerned country.

Speaking on Myanmar were the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Liechtenstein, France, Belgium, Maldives, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Iraq, Australia, Norway, Czech Republic, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Nepal, Viet Nam, Croatia, Russian Federation, Belarus, Sweden, Lao People's Democratic Republic, United Kingdom, Denmark, Turkey, Cambodia and Pakistan.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Save the Children International, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, International Commission of Jurists, European Centre for Law and Justice, Association Ma'onah for Human Rights and Immigration, International-Lawyers.Org, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Human Rights Council then held an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Syria spoke as a concerned country.

Speaking on Syria were the European Union, Sweden on behalf of Nordic countries, Qatar, UN Women, Liechtenstein, Germany, Jordan, Israel, Italy, Brazil, France, Belgium, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Greece, Chile, China, Iran, Switzerland, Netherlands, Bahrain, Venezuela, Malta, Cuba, Luxembourg, Croatia, Russian Federation, Belarus, Albania, Ireland, United Kingdom, Egypt, Turkey and Romania.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council's forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 September, to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. It will then hold an enhanced interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and the Fact-finding Mission on Venezuela. The dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic will resume at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar

Presentation of Oral Update

THOMAS ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, noting that in a few short weeks, Myanmar would hold a national election, regretted to report that even before a single vote was cast, the upcoming election in Myanmar would fail to meet the standard of free, fair, credible and transparent election that reflected the will of the people. The results of an election could not accurately reflect the will of the people, when the right to vote was denied because of a person's race, ethnicity or religion. He had seen no evidence that the Government was willing or prepared to facilitate the right to vote for hundreds of thousands of voting age Rohingya located in Rakhine state or in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Government of Myanmar should welcome and cooperate with the International Criminal Court. It should also offer its full cooperation to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which continued to collect information for future prosecutions of international crimes committed in Myanmar, including in Kachin and Shan states. While commending Facebook for preserving evidence of possible crimes, he expressed disappointment that it had chosen not to cooperate with a request for information made by the Gambia through a United States federal court as part of its ongoing dispute with Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.

Statement by Concerned Country

Myanmar, speaking as a concerned country, said Myanmar faced multiple and complex challenges and was willing to receive suggestions. However, suggestions and comments made on the situation in Myanmar should not seek to fan the flame. The Government had created a COVID-19 economic plan, and strict stay-at-home measures had been applied in the country in response to the pandemic. Regarding the elections, they would be held on 8 November this year. Criteria had been established by the Union Election Commission for this election, namely that they be free, fair, transparent and reflective of the desire of the people. The Government, along with the Union Election Commission, was monitoring online and printed media to prevent hate speech and fake news. The Government had established peace as a priority and was making all efforts to achieve sustainable peace.

Discussion

Speakers called on the Government of Myanmar to resume its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and grant him unfettered access to the country. Noting that Internet shutdowns had further increased the vulnerability of Rohingyas, some speakers called on the Government to immediately initiate repatriation from Bangladesh. The statements made by the Government of Myanmar on progress achieved and the importance of human rights would not be credible as long as there were serious human rights violations and abuses, and complete impunity for the perpetrators and the whole chain of command. It was paramount that Myanmar implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, notably those concerning the Rohingyas' freedom of movement. Some speakers denounced politicized mandates that targeted specific countries, and others expressed weariness about information collected remotely such as that of the report. Children were killed by indiscriminate shelling by the military, and the recent report of a gang rape of a Rakhine woman by government soldiers, which was confirmed by the military, was alarming.

Concluding Remarks

THOMAS ANDREWS, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, reiterated that restrictions to access to information and the Internet had negative impacts on human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting that Rohingyas would not be able to vote in the upcoming elections, he warned that disenfranchising voters in conflict areas would lead to danger and more conflict.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

Presentation of Report

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, presenting the report, said while well documented violations continued unabated, newer forms of violations with sectarian undertones were increasing, including targeted killings, looting and appropriation of property. Across Government-held areas, the report documented 45 cases of enforced disappearance, 13 cases of torture, and 19 deaths in detention. The Government's security apparatus continued to violate residents' civil, economic, political and social rights, particularly in areas previously held by non-state armed and terrorist groups. With a staggering 9.3 million Syrians now food insecure, the Independent International Commission reiterated the need to ease or waive sectoral sanctions to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support, and to avoid further destituting an already desperate population. Blame for the suffering of the Syrian people did not rest with the Government of Syria only. The Turkey-backed "Syrian National Army" may have committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment and torture, and rape. Meanwhile in Dayr al-Zawr, Raqqa and Hasakah, ISIL continued its attacks on the "Syrian Democratic Forces" and the anti-ISIL coalition.

Statement by Concerned Country

Syria, speaking as a concerned country, said Syrians had been suffering for nine years from the war waged by the main sponsors of the current discussion on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic. Syrians were living today under the yoke of a siege and economic terrorism imposed on them which violated all their basic rights, including their right to health, food, decent living and development, in addition to their right to life. Since the beginning of this year, one million Syrians had been deprived of water as a result of the Turkish occupation and the actions of its mercenaries. Syria did not have enough time to respond to all the fabricated accusations outlined by the Commission in its last report. Syria rejected this selective and politicized report that adopted double standards and was inconsistent, like previous reports, with the standards of professional and objective investigation.

Discussion

Speakers said the Syrian regime and its allies continued to undercut a ceasefire, and were resorting to military action to gain time, perpetrating violations that amounted to crimes against humanity. Sexual and gender-based violence was used as a tool of torture, limiting the participation in public life of women and girls. Commending the efforts made by the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Syria, Geir Pedersen, speakers stressed that a political solution was the only solution to the conflict. Other speakers pointed out that the Syrian regime refused to accept that reality. Accountability must be part and parcel of any durable political solution, and an immediate ceasefire should be immediately implemented. Denouncing the allegations outlined in the report as fabricated, some speakers emphasised that such a politicized mandate should not be renewed. Without the full involvement of the country concerned, the objectivity and reliability of the report could not be guaranteed. Enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention were used to extort goods and intimidate, speakers deplored. All parties to the conflict must comply with their obligations under international law ; those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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