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Myanmar coup: UN expert calls for strong international response including sanctions and arms embargo

01 February 2021

GENEVA (1 February 2021) – A UN human rights expert today condemned the military coup in Myanmar, urging a strong and unequivocal condemnation and action by the international community.

“I call for the immediate, unconditional release of everyone who has been detained, the restoration of communications and an end to this outrageous and unlawful action,” said Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

“The ‘state of emergency’ in Myanmar is the military itself. They are guilty of an assault on an emerging democracy and the people of Myanmar. Human rights and democracy champions are in detention and under siege. They need and they deserve the world to be standing with them, which makes a strong international response imperative.”

Andrews called on the international community to show resolve in denouncing the military’s actions, and to ensure those responsible for the country’s past human rights violations are held accountable.

“Decisive action is imperative, including the imposition of strong targeted sanctions, and an arms embargo until such time as democracy is restored,” he added.

“Elected leaders and champions of democracy are in detention and under siege. The onus is, thus, on the international community to hold the Tatmadaw responsible.

“The seizure of military power over a democratically elected government casts a dark shadow once again over the country,” said Andrews. “The generals have created a climate of fear and anxiety.

“The Tatmadaw must immediately restore democratic order, and return elected authorities to power. The military leadership must also fully respect and protect people’s rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

“All detainees must be released immediately. We also call on the Tatmadaw to avoid any use of force against protesters or civilians, and to respect the rights of the people of Myanmar to peacefully protest and express their opposition,” Andrews said.

On 31 January, Myanmar’s military seized all levers of power in the country, consolidating control over the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and detaining the leadership of the civilian governmental authorities, including the State Counselor, Aung San Suu Kyii and President U Win Myint.

In a video address on the military run TV channel Myawaddy, the military declared a State of Emergency and the taking of power for one year. It justified their decision indicating reports of electoral fraud by the Tatmadaw’s political ally, USDP. On 8 November 2020, Myanmar held general election which granted an overwhelming majority to the National League for Democracy (NLD), paving the way for greater reforms and democratic transition.

Several members of the new parliament are reportedly being held under house arrest, while the whereabouts of the leader of NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior leaders, are unknown.

A heavy police presence is reported around Myanmar’s capital Yangon, and communication networks and internet connectivity, including mobile and Wifi, in Yangon and Naypyitaw have been largely shutdown.


Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms 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.

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar

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For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]), Jeremy Laurence ([email protected]) and Kitty McKinsey ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts.

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