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UN expert calls for independent investigations into killings and violations in Myanmar

GENEVA (13 March 2017) – A fresh call for “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations” into the killings and other serious human rights violations in Myanmar is being made by the UN Special Rapporteur, Yanghee Lee.

“No stones must be left unturned. The alleged victims, as well as all the people of Myanmar deserve to know the truth,” Ms. Lee said during the presentation of her third report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Of particular concern are multiple cases of killings of civil society actors for their involvement in human rights work and activism, including several in recent months, as well as cases which remain unresolved even after years of relatives of victims demanding justice. Many of these cases relate to vested commercial interests or the military.”

Ms. Lee was particularly disturbed by the brutal killing of one of Myanmar’s best known Constitutional lawyers, U Ko Ni, as he was holding his grandchild.

The expert called for a Commission of Inquiry into events in Rakhine State, where allegations of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by the armed forces have been surfacing “increasingly and persistently”.

“I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and the throwing of very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” said the Special Rapporteur, referring to her visit to Bangladesh last month to meet individuals who had fled Rakhine state.

Ms. Lee also called for investigations and a “dedicated and urgent discussion” at the Human Rights Council into human rights violations occurring in other parts of the country.

She continues to receive reports of serious violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual- and gender-based violence, arbitrary killings, and abductions; adding that, “many of these violations have also gone uninvestigated, with the situation in these areas worsening and still receiving little attention.”

“I am extremely concerned by the escalation of conflict in Kachin and Shan States  which is having a dramatic impact on civilians in these areas,” she said, highlighting reports that over 10,000 people were displaced last week from Kokang Self-Administered Zone.

Ms. Lee also expressed concern that the United Nations and other international organizations have been systematically denied authorization to deliver vital and, in some cases, lifesaving assistance to over 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) since May 2016.

The expert welcomed the increasing representation of women in discussions making up the peace process, calling for the minimum level of 30% across all groups to be reached at the next conference. She noted nonetheless that, “the peace process at the moment appears to be at a stalemate” and called on, “all parties to increase efforts to advance the process.”

The Special Rapporteur also welcomed the increased efforts of the government to engage with her. She reiterated her approach to the mandate as being a friend of Myanmar, with her only bias being towards the human rights of all the people in the country. “As I have always done, I present myself, and my mandate, as a source for support and assistance towards Myanmar’s aim of becoming a fully functioning democracy aspiring to be respected in the international fora.”

The Special Rapporteur’s full statement to the UN Human Rights Council.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report to the UN Human Rights Council.


Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. 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.

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.

UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar.

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