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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

04 March 2021

GENEVA (4 March 2021) – The UN’s human rights expert on Myanmar said in a report published today the military junta in the country is illegal, illegitimate and responsible for widespread and systematic human rights violations against nonviolent, peaceful protesters, and should be held accountable.

In the report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, details how the Myanmar military illegally overthrew the civilian government and proceeded to attack the people of Myanmar by committing the crimes of murder, assault and arbitrary detention.

The junta also systematically and illegitimately dismantled the people of Myanmar’s legal protections, installing new laws that remove basic protections of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and privacy. Additionally, the report describes how the military has forcibly displaced several thousand members of ethnic nationalities from their homes since the coup.

The most recent crackdown on protesters by the Myanmar military and police, including yesterday’s murder of 38 peaceful demonstrators, requires strong international action, Andrews said. 

“Every day the military junta in Myanmar unleashes more brutality on peaceful protesters who are standing up for justice, human rights and democracy, defending their nation against this illegal military coup,” he said.

“While the future of Myanmar will be determined by its people, the international community must act urgently and decisively to support them.

“The UN Security Council is meeting on Friday to discuss the situation in Myanmar. I urge the members of the Council to consider the unrelenting brutality that we are witnessing in Myanmar. I urge the Council to take decisive and unified action against the military junta, including targeted sanctions, an arms embargo, and a referral to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute atrocities committed since the coup on 1 February and those committed against ethnic groups in years prior.”    

The Special Rapporteur also details human rights violations preceding the coup in an annex to the report, which will be presented to the Council on March 11. He demonstrates that throughout 2020, the military violated the International Court of Justice’s order to protect the Rohingya from further killings, assaults, torture and other crimes. The report shows that despite the order, Myanmar security forces continued to murder, torture, and fire indiscriminately on Rohingya civilians, while continuing to deny them equal access to citizenship rights. 

UN Member States can stop the flow of arms and security and surveillance equipment to the generals of Myanmar, Andrews said. Forty-one countries have already imposed some form of arms embargo against the Myanmar military. These numbers must grow and governments should coordinate to stop the sale of weapons, as well the transfer of dual-use technology to Myanmar, he said.

Andrews also urged humanitarian and development donors to work directly with local Myanmar civil society and aid organisations whenever possible to directly support populations rather than through centralised mechanisms that are now controlled by the junta.

“Finally, I am urging Member states to deny recognition of the military junta as the legitimate government representing the people of Myanmar precisely because they are not,” Andrews added.

“Many have seen the gruesome photos and videos of people being killed or beaten or brutally arrested by police and army personnel on the streets of Myanmar,” Andrews said. “Despite these attacks, and the grave danger that they face, the people of Myanmar continue to rise up as a diverse yet powerfully unified whole. They are doing so to demand democracy, human rights and an immediate end to the junta. The nonviolent civil disobedience movement, or CDM, is effective and growing, drawing its organic power from the unflinching and democratic desires of the Myanmar people.  Myanmar has never appeared to be more unified.

“I sincerely hope that the international community will rise to the occasion of this moment of history by following the lead and the inspiration of the people of Myanmar. And, that justice, dignity and human rights will finally prevail for all.”


*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, he has a Washington DC based consulting practice, Andrews Strategic Services. 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, has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide, and is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.

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

For more information and media requests please contact: Pol Planas Callicó (Email: [email protected] / Tel. +4122 917 94 77) For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / [email protected]).

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