UN Human Rights Council Burma Resolution Must Not Drop Demands For Action
Statement by members of the European Burma Network
The content of the next United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on Burma is currently being discussed by the European Union. Members of the European Burma Network call upon European Union members to ensure the Resolution continues to highlight ongoing human rights abuses in Burma, and continues to call for action by the government of Burma to end these abuses.
The last Human Rights Council Burma Resolution in 2013 highlighted 36 issues and specific areas which the government of Burma needed to act upon to improve human rights in the country. Not one of them has been fully complied with by the government of Burma.
The most recent publicly published report by the Special Rapporteur on Burma in September 2013 made an unprecedented 63 recommendations for action that the government of Burma should take to improve human rights. Not one of these has been fully acted upon by the government of Burma.
Almost three years into Burma’s reform process, it cannot be argued any longer that human rights abuses are a legacy of the past which the government of Burma is trying to address. The widespread scale of ongoing human rights abuses, the serious nature of these abuses, which include violations of international law, the ongoing impunity for those committing and ordering these abuses, and the failure to repeal repressive laws and enact new laws guaranteeing human rights, all indicate that the government is not willing to take the steps necessary to end human rights abuses. It is also significant that the government and military in Burma continue to deny that most human rights abuses are even taking place.
The fact that not one of the recommendations in the last Human Rights Council Resolution has been fully enacted upon places responsibility on the European Union to ensure that these calls for action are not only repeated in the next Resolution, but also strengthened. Timelines for action need to be included in the Resolution, with the prospect of further actions, including the use of international law mechanisms, if the government of Burma continues to defy the Human Rights Council. This would avoid a return to the situation under the past government where Human Rights Council Resolutions were repeatedly ignored without the Burmese government facing any consequences.
Members of the European Burma Network believe that ongoing impunity for serious human rights abuses means that international law mechanisms are the most appropriate framework through which to address these crimes.
Human rights abuses described in the last Human Rights Council Resolution which could meet the criteria for international crimes include arbitrary detention, forced displacement, child soldiers, rape and other forms of sexual violence, military attacks on civilians, and torture.
Two of the most serious issues where violations of international law continue to be committed relate to the status of, and violence against, the Rohingya, and the ongoing use of rape and sexual violence by the Burmese Army.
The government of Burma has failed to act upon any of the Human Rights Council’s calls for action relating to the Rohingya. The government of Burma has not ensured those responsible for the violence are held to account, has not ensured safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access, and has not addressed the status of the Rohingya. Institutionalised and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya continues. The government of Burma has specifically rejected changing the 1982 Citizenship Law, which does not comply with Burma’s treaty obligations with the United Nations. The Human Rights Council cannot allow this situation to persist without taking further action. The Human Rights Council Resolution should include the establishment of an independent international investigation into the violence in Rakhine State.
In January 2014, the Women’s League of Burma published a new report, ‘Same Impunity, Same Patterns’, which highlighted the ongoing use of rape and sexual violence by the Burmese Army. The Human Rights Council and United Nations General Assembly has made repeated calls upon the government of Burma to end the use of rape and sexual violence, and to hold those responsible to account. The response of the government of Burma has and continues to be denial that such incidents take place. Impunity continues. In 2013 the government of Burma also refused to support the international declaration on preventing rape and sexual violence in conflict. The ongoing use of rape and sexual violence by the Burmese Army cannot be allowed to continue. The Human Rights Council must take further action. This should include the inclusion in the Resolution of the establishment of an independent international investigation into the use of rape and sexual violence in Burma.
President Thein Sein did not fulfil his promise to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013 despite his claims to the contrary. Many people remain in jail because of their political activities, ethnicity or religion, and more have been detained since the end-of-year amnesty. The Human Rights Council Resolution should include a call for a permanent independent political prisoner review mechanism involving international expertise to be established in Burma. The review mechanism should be underpinned by legislation, be independent of executive government, involve international expertise, and have judicial powers to order the release of those assessed to be in jail for reasons of political activities or beliefs, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender. Furthermore, all political prisoners should be released unconditionally, without any charges hanging over them.
The Resolution should also highlight the urgent need for action to counter religious intolerance, hate speech, and incitement of violence in Burma. The Resolution should call for an international conference on the issue with high-level participation by the international community, leading to a focused and co-ordinated plan of action with international financial support and expertise.
Land confiscations, forced evictions and other development-related human rights abuses have increased since the reform process began, and also need to be addressed in the Resolution.
Members of the European Burma Network believe that the scale and severity of human rights abuses in Burma requires that Burma remain as an Item 4 on the Human Rights Council agenda, ‘Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention’, and that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Burma should remain unchanged, regardless of whether President Thein Sein fulfils his promise to allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in the country.
Actions Birmanie (Belgium)
Austrian Burma Center
Building Social Democracy in Burma (ASD Sweden)
Burma Action Ireland
Burma Campaign UK
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme - FIDH
Info Birmanie (France)
Norwegian Burma Committee
People In Need
Swedish Burma Committee
Social Democratic Students´ Burma Project, Sweden