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Burma: Ongoing human rights violations warrant the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate

March 17, 2014

Paris, Bangkok -- The UN Human Rights Council must renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma with full monitoring and reporting powers, FIDH and its member organization, the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma), said today.

The situation in Burma calls for more human rights monitoring, not less,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “The Human Rights Council needs a UN Special Rapporteur who can regularly monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Burma if it wants to play a positive role in the country’s fragile transition to democracy,” he added. 

FIDH and ALTSEAN-Burma regret that Burma has ignored many of the recommendations that UN Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana made over the course of his mandate. The government and military-dominated Parliament have disregarded key recommendations to amend or repeal draconian laws not in line with international standards; reform the country’s judiciary and armed forces; and establish accountability for widespread and systematic human rights violations. 

At the start of his mandate, Mr. Ojea Quintana set very specific benchmarks to measure Burma’s human rights performance. Despite the new civilian government’s hype about the reform process, the overwhelming majority of those benchmarks have not been met,” said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard. 

Since first convening in January 2011, Parliament has repealed only one of the numerous laws identified by the Special Rapporteur as not in line with international standards. Burma’s military, which has enjoyed an 88% budget increase over the past three years, continues to carry out military offensives and abuses against civilians in many ethnic minority areas. The country’s judiciary remains a tool of the executive branch to repress dissent. Despite President Thein Sein’s promise to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013, the government has failed to do so. At least 30 political prisoners remain behind bars. To compound the situation, authorities have arbitrarily arrested or detained at least 26 people since 1 January. Those arrested or detained include journalists, human rights defenders, peaceful protestors, and farmers. Scores of activists still face criminal charges under the very laws that the UN Special Rapporteur identified as not in conformity with international standards. 

Since President Thein Sein took office in February 2011, the government has consistently refused to take effective legislative and judicial measures to address impunity,” said Ms. Stothard. “Despite the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission and the appointment of various investigative commissions, no state actor been has been held accountable for committing serious human rights violations, be it abuses against civilians in ethnic areas, the crackdown against anti-Letpadaung protestors, or the serious crimes committed against Kachin and Rohingya,” added Ms. Stothard. 

The Burmese government’s unwillingness to undertake a genuine investigation of the most recent allegations of the killing of 48 Rohingya in early January in Du Chee Yar Tan Village, Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, is the most recent in a series of failures to investigate human rights violations perpetrated against Rohingya. 

In the absence of an effective international monitoring mechanism such as the Special Rapporteur, the Human Rights Council risks giving the government and its armed forces free rein to commit human rights abuses with total impunity,” concluded Ms. Stothard. 

Press contacts 

Debbie Stothard (English) - Tel: +66 81 6861652 (Bangkok)
Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
Audrey Couprie (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 (Paris)

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