Photo Source: GHRD Staff.
Topic: United Nations
Team UN Geneva Researchers,
Global Human Rights Defence.
Tuesday, 26th of September, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) presented its report on the human rights situation in Myanmar during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council. The Office had noticed a concerning pattern of human rights violations that took place between April 1st 2022 and July 31st 2023. Their report presents several incidents that affected the civilian population of Myanmar, including military airstrikes, ground operations, and arson. The findings are a result of 161 interviews conducted throughout the reporting period with primary or secondary sources, and collaboration with local and international organisations. The report also discusses human rights concerns regarding the Rohingya minority.
The OHCHR emphasised the abuses done by the military who relied on access to foreign funds in order to purchase aviation fuel and military hardware. The military junta instated in Myanmar after its 2021 coup d’état has managed to gain complete control over the judicial court system. 24,123 people have been arrested for speaking out against the Myanmar regime, 19,733 of which remain detained. 158 people have been sentenced to death and 4 executions have been carried out. Moreover, at least 3,857 civilians were killed by the military, including 610 women and 376 children.
The OHCHR recalled the commitment given by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to restore Myanmar to stability through the 5 Point Consensus, provisions to ensure the end of violence, dialogue between all parties, the appointment of a special envoy, and humanitarian aid in Myanmar.
After the OHCHR’s presentation, it was the Member States’ and non-members’ turn to voice their opinion and concerns regarding this report. The European Union (EU) and several of its member states (Italy, Germany, France, Spain) were alarmed at the report of continuous human rights violations and violence against civilians. The EU wanted to know more about the situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. Australia spoke on behalf of itself, Canada, and New Zealand, and inquired on the state of civil society and what the international community could do to help.
The Pakistani delegation was most concerned about the abuse against minorities living in Myanmar. It called for the repatriation of the displaced minorities to Bangladesh, with Turkey echoing this sentiment and calling upon the international community for help. Pakistan was also disappointed with the decreased attention given by the OHCHR to the Rohingya minority. Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan in this assertion and asked the international community to give more assistance to the Rohingya people.
Czechia, Luxembourg, and the United States took a firmer stance, considering the international community as responsible for restoring peace and justice and holding the perpetrators of violence accountable. Indonesia, as part of ASEAN, has assured the international community that Myanmar will be skipped in the succession for ASEAN’s chairman seat. Moreover, Myanmar will be excluded from ASEAN consultations. Indonesia expressed its solidarity and continuous support for Myanmar citizens.
The Chinese, Russian, and Venezuelan delegations have called out the OHCHR for not respecting the principle of non-intervention laid down in the UN Charter. They considered that OHCHR’s inquiries would lead to more instability in Myanmar . These delegations were concerned by what they considered to be a “polarisation” of the discussion, given that the Myanmar delegation was not present during the Interactive Dialogue and could not defend itself or present its “truthful” situation. The Russian delegation voiced its belief that Myanmar civilians should bring attention to their living situation themselves.
Bangladesh, as a neighbouring country to Myanmar, has been the hotspot of refuge for Rohingya people seeking to flee Myanmar. However, the Bangladesh delegation has made it clear that they cannot continue to welcome and host Rohingya refugees because of their diminishing economic resources. The Bangladesh delegation has asked the countries in Myanmar’s immediate proximity to create better conditions for Rohingya migrants and to help in supporting and hosting them.
A few non-governmental organisations have also spoken out on the human rights crisis in Myanmar. Edmund Rice International and the International Bar Association have asked for this case to be handed over to the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Now asked businesses and banks in Southeast Asian countries to stop investing in Myanmar and to cut ties with any stocks or bonds related to Myanmar. Article 19 has called the military junta a “digital dictatorship” that monitors the digital activity of its citizens and increasingly implements concerning mass surveillance mechanisms.
Finally, it was time for the concluding remarks from the High Commissioner for Human Rights himself, Mr. Volker Türk. He reaffirmed that the military junta of Myanmar continues to oppose the OHCHR and local organisations’ efforts to provide humanitarian aid. The High Commissioner also spoke of the regional economic situation, expressing concern over an increase in human trafficking and narcotics deals. He declared this the result of decades of impunity, the situation of Myanmar being a “glaring vacuum of the rule of law”. The human rights situation in Myanmar will continue to receive the utmost attention of the UNHRC and will be referred to the United Nations Security Council, and eventually to the International Criminal Court.
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