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UN Special Rapporteur urges Myanmar to do more to protect the rights of all children

GENEVA (15 June 2017) – More must be done by the Government of Myanmar to protect children in the country, says a United Nations human rights expert.

Reporting to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, reminded the Government that this obligation extended to all children within its jurisdiction, including all those from the Rohingya minority living in Rakhine State.

Expressing concern that at least 13 children were being held by police in Rakhine, the Special Rapporteur highlighted that children should be detained “strictly as a last resort.”

She also called for an immediate Government investigation into the death in custody of one from among the 13, in order to fully probe the circumstances including why the death was not reported for four months.

Ms. Lee noted the overall situation in Rakhine State remains tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture, kidnapping and a village official being stabbed to death.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the situation of Rohingya children who have fled Myanmar.

“I am especially alarmed by the reported recent rise in the number of child brides among women and girls who fled Myanmar and live in neighbouring countries,” she said. “This perpetuates the cycle of violence and of poverty experienced by these young women.”

“I call on the Government to do more to protect all children, including those forced to work, from abuse and neglect,” said the expert, expressing shock at the recent case of a girl working as a domestic servant and who had been abused by her employers. 

The Special Rapporteur provided an update to the Council on several other issues of concern, including the reported estimated 66 cases brought under a vague defamation provision of the Telecommunications Act since the new government came to power, and the continuing reports of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by several parties to the conflict in Kachin and Shan States.

Highlighting the number of alarming incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence since her last update, the expert called on the Government of Myanmar to “take more concerted, systematic efforts to curb hate speech and violence incited by nationalist groups.”

On a more positive note, Ms. Lee congratulated Myanmar on becoming a medium-ranked country in the human development index.

The Special Rapporteur will visit Myanmar in July and said she will continue to look into business and human rights issues.

“I stand ready to assist in any way I can to achieve a Myanmar where the rights and fundamental freedoms of all are respected and fully realized,” she said.

Professor 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.

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

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

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