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Press briefing note on Myanmar by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 29 November 2016 

Since the attacks, on 9 October, on three Border Guard police posts in Maungdaw and Rathidaung in northern Rakhine State, the UN Human Rights Office has received reports of serious human rights violations during security operations.

The High Commissioner is alarmed by these reports, which include allegations of extrajudicial killings, mass destruction of civilian infrastructure, arbitrary arrests and sexual violence, as well as a renewed spike in hate speech, including on social media. The Government needs to condemn such inflammatory – potentially very dangerous – rhetoric no matter who is responsible. Failing this, there is a real risk that it could exacerbate the current spiral of violence. 

The High Commissioner unequivocally condemns the reported use of violence by armed individuals in northern Rakhine State, and recognizes that this is not something the authorities can ignore. However, it is essential that the Government ensures its attempts to restore security are firmly grounded in international human rights laws and standards, and that this is recognized by the affected population. 

Offensives in Kachin and Northern Shan State also continue to cause human rights violations and displacement. Protection of civilians and unfettered humanitarian access to conflict affected areas is critical. Measures that may heighten the vulnerability or pose threats to the safety and security of internally displaced people – such as requiring IDPs to cross conflict lines – must be avoided. The authorities must ensure respect for international humanitarian law and the rights of internally displaced people. Continued failure to do so will draw a sharp response from the international community.

The High Commissioner also regrets that, beyond the formation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by Kofi Annan, the Government has largely failed to act on the recommendations made in a report by the UN Human Rights Office in June this year on the situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar*. The report documented a wide range of human rights violations and abuses against the Rohingya, including arbitrary deprivation of nationality, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, threats to life and security, denial of rights to health and education, forced labour, sexual violence, and limitations to their political rights, among others. The report raised the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity.

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