Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Mar18/11)
28 March 2018
Third World Network
Myanmar: HRC strongly condemns gross violations in Rakhine State
Published in SUNS #8650 dated 27 March 2018
Geneva, 26 Mar (Kanaga Raja) - The United Nations Human Rights Council
on Friday strongly condemned the reported widespread, systematic and
gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Rakhine State
since 25 August 2017, and called upon the Myanmar authorities to ensure
that those responsible for human rights violations and abuses are
Reiterating its condemnation of attacks carried out by the Arakan
Rohingya Salvation Army and other militant groups, the Council also
expressed its deepest concern about the disproportionate response
of the military and the security forces.
It deplored the serious deterioration of the security, human rights
and humanitarian situation, the exodus of almost 700,000 Rohingya
into Bangladesh and the subsequent depopulation of northern Rakhine
The Council also adopted resolutions extending by a period of one
year the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Independent
International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the
Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
It also adopted five resolutions on the situation of human rights
in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.
The resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/37/L.43)
was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, five against and 10 abstentions.
It was one among a raft of resolutions adopted on various human rights
issues during the closing of the thirty-seventh regular session of
the Council on Friday.
Those that voted in favour of the resolution were: Afghanistan, Australia,
Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia,
Germany, Hungary, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama,
Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Spain, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates,
United Kingdom, and the United States.
Those that voted against were Burundi, China, Cuba, Philippines and
Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Japan, Kenya, Mongolia,
Nepal, Senegal, and South Africa abstained in the vote.
"The UN's top human rights body adopted today a resolution on
Myanmar, condemning ongoing violations against Rohingya, allocating
resources to preserve evidence for use in a justice mechanism, and
recognising the authority of the UN Security Council to refer the
matter to the International Criminal Court," said John Fisher,
Geneva Director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
Fisher added: "The joint sponsorship of this resolution by both
the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation sends
a powerful message: evidence is being preserved and those in Myanmar
responsible for ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity will
be held to account".
In its resolution on Myanmar, the Human Rights Council also decided
to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights in Myanmar for a further period of one year.
It requested the Special Rapporteur to present an oral progress report
to the Human Rights Council at its thirty- eighth session (this coming
June) and to submit a report to the Third Committee at the seventy-third
session of the General Assembly and to the Council at its fortieth
session, in accordance with its annual programme of work.
The Council invited the Special Rapporteur to continue to monitor
the situation of human rights and to measure progress in the implementation
of the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur.
In the resolution on Myanmar comprising 36 operative paragraphs and
some 12 preambular paragraphs, the Council acknowledged with grave
concern the statements made by the Secretary-General, on 26 February
2018, the High Commissioner (for Human Rights), on 7 March 2018, and
the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, on 6 March 2018,
on the situation of human rights in Rakhine State, in which they referred
to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.
The Council welcomed the positive developments in Myanmar towards
political and economic reform, and called upon the Government of Myanmar,
including the security forces, to ensure that democratization, national
reconciliation, good governance and the rule of law prevail.
It urged the Government to take further steps to promote and protect
human rights and combat corruption, and to address outstanding concerns.
The Council also called upon all actors to consolidate the democratic
transition with full respect for the rule of law and human rights
by bringing all national institutions, including the military, under
civilian control, and to ensure the recognition of all ethnic and
religious minorities and their equitable inclusion in the political
It recognized the first steps taken by the Government of Myanmar to
address the underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine State, including
by setting up the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace,
Stability and Development in Rakhine State and the Advisory Commission
on Rakhine State, established on 5 September 2016 at the behest of
the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and chaired
by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The Council welcomed the announcement by the Government of Myanmar
that it would fully implement the recommendations of the final report
of the Advisory Commission and the setting up of an implementation
committee and an advisory board to that end.
It urged the Government to implement the recommendations of the Advisory
Commission without delay and with determination, in full consultation
with all the communities concerned.
It called upon the international community and regional organizations
to provide support, including humanitarian and development assistance,
to the Government of Myanmar for the implementation of the recommendations
of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, including the recommendations
on an inclusive, transparent and efficient citizenship verification
process that provides participants with all benefits, rights and freedoms
associated with citizenship, ensuring equal access to essential social
services for all Myanmar residents, including education and health
care, and providing freedom of movement for them, and on finding sustainable
solutions in building inter-communal harmony towards lasting peace,
stability and prosperity for the benefit of the whole population.
It called upon the Government of Myanmar to eliminate statelessness
and systematic and institutionalized discrimination against members
of ethnic and religious minorities, including by addressing the root
causes of discrimination, in particular relating to the Rohingya minority,
inter alia, by reviewing the 1982 Citizenship Law, which has led to
deprivation of human rights, by ensuring equal access to full citizenship
through a transparent, voluntary and accessible procedure and to all
civil and political rights by allowing for self-identification, by
amending or repealing all discriminatory legislation and policies,
including discriminatory provisions of the set of "protection
of race and religion laws" enacted in 2015 covering religious
conversion, interfaith marriage, monogamy and population control,
by lifting local orders restricting the right to freedom of movement
and restricting access to civil registration, health services and
education services, and by facilitating durable solutions that allow
internally displaced persons, refugees and camp populations to voluntarily
return to their places of origin in safety, security and dignity,
and to ensure non-discriminatory access to basic social services in
accordance with international law.
It called for a full and independent investigation of the reports
of systematic human rights violations and abuses committed, as reported
by various United Nations bodies, including the Human Rights Council
independent international fact-finding mission.
The Council expressed the urgent need to ensure that all those responsible
for crimes related to violations and abuses of international human
rights law are held to account through credible and independent national
or international criminal justice mechanisms.
It stressed the need to pursue practical steps towards this goal while
acknowledging the authority of the Security Council under the Charter
of the United Nations, including the authority to refer the situation
in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
The Council strongly urged the Government of Myanmar to lift the curfew
order in Rakhine State, to ensure freedom of movement and the safety
and security of all persons without discrimination, to grant and facilitate
immediate, safe and unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to
United Nations agencies and their partners, and other domestic and
international non-governmental organizations, to provide gender-responsive
humanitarian assistance to all people in need of assistance in order
to save lives and preserve human dignity throughout the country, to
grant cooperation partners access without delay to permit the full
resumption of aid programmes, to grant access to independent observers
and representatives of the media, without fear of reprisals, and to
safeguard those who report abuses.
It welcomed the signing by the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh
of an "arrangement on the return of displaced persons from Rakhine"
on 23 November 2017 and of a "physical arrangement for the repatriation
of displaced Myanmar residents from Bangladesh" on 16 January
2018 as important first steps towards the safe, voluntary, dignified
and sustainable return and repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
It acknowledged the cooperation of Bangladesh with the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while urging all parties
to invite the Office of the High Commissioner, the International Organization
for Migration and other relevant international organizations to fulfil
their mandates and to participate fully in the Joint Working Group
on the Repatriation of Displaced Myanmar Residents from Bangladesh
and in the implementation of the returns process to ensure effective
and sustainable implementation, in accordance with international law.
The Council acknowledged the measures taken by the Government of Myanmar
to prepare for the voluntary return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh,
including through the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance,
Resettlement and Development in Rakhine.
It stressed the need for the creation of the conditions for safe,
voluntary, dignified and sustainable return, with international oversight
preferably to their places of origin, providing returnees with freedom
of movement, unimpeded access to livelihoods, social services, including
health services, education and shelter, and compensating them for
Acknowledging also the importance of international oversight and monitoring
of these processes, it noted with concern the continued departure
of members of the remaining Rohingya population for Bangladesh, and
called for an end to the intimidation of those displaced and taking
shelter in no man's land on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
The Council strongly called upon the Government of Myanmar to expedite
the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of all internally
displaced persons in conditions of safety and dignity to their homes
in Myanmar, including the approximately 120,000 Rohingya internally
displaced persons currently in camps near Sittwe, in central Rakhine.
It recognized the admission by the Myanmar military for the first
time of the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn
Din village, northern Rakhine State, and expressed concern that the
Government of Myanmar has rejected credible reports of atrocities.
It reiterated grave concerns that reporters investigating the Inn
Dinn killings have been jailed. It also reiterated its calls upon
the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with independent, credible, and
effective investigations into all allegations of human rights abuses
and violations, including the gender dimension of such abuses and
It deeply regretted that the Government of Myanmar has to date refused
to cooperate with the independent international fact-finding mission
appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council to establish
the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations
by military and security forces and human rights violations and abuses
in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State, including but not limited
to arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other
forms of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial, summary
or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement
and unlawful destruction of property, with a view to ensuring full
accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.
[In an interim oral report to the thirty-seventh session of the Council
on 12 March, the UN-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding
Mission on Myanmar had said that the body of information and materials
it is collecting is "concrete and overwhelming" and points
to "human rights violations of the most serious kind" being
committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, and that these violations
in all likelihood amount to "crimes under international law."
(See SUNS #8641 dated 14 March 2018.)]
In its resolution, the Council called upon the Government of Myanmar
to cooperate fully with the fact-finding mission, including by making
available information on the terms of reference and the findings of
domestic investigations and other relevant information. It stressed
the need for the fact-finding mission to be granted full, unrestricted
and unmonitored access to all areas and interlocutors.
It reiterated the need for the fact-finding mission to be provided
with all the resources and expertise necessary to carry out its mandate,
including forensic science expertise and expertise on sexual and gender-based
violence, to continue to fulfil its mandate until it presents its
final report to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-ninth session,
to be followed by an interactive dialogue.
It requested the presentation of that report to the General Assembly
at its seventy-third session, to be followed by an interactive dialogue
with the fact-finding mission.
The Council decided that the fact-finding mission must ensure that
the large and continually increasing amount of evidence of human rights
violations and abuses it has collected is fully documented, verified,
consolidated and preserved in order for the material to be effectively
shared, accessed and used by credible justice mechanisms.
It requested the Secretary-General to allocate the resources necessary
for this to be done.
It strongly encouraged the Government of Myanmar to take the measures
necessary to address discrimination and prejudice against women, children
and members of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities across
the country, and to take further action to publicly condemn and speak
out against national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
And to adopt measures against incitement to imminent violence based
on nationality, race or religion or belief, while upholding freedom
of expression, and to increase efforts further to promote inclusion,
respect for diversity and peaceful coexistence in all sectors of society,
in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 of 24 March
2011 and the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of
national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence by, inter alia, further facilitating
inter-faith and inter-communal dialogue.
The Council noted with deep concern that charges for criminal defamation
and other offences have increasingly been used to target journalists,
politicians, students and social media users for their peaceful expression,
online as well as offline, in particular under section 66 (d) of the
Telecommunications Act, the Electronic Transactions Law and provisions
of the Penal Code, including section 505 (b), and that the Official
Secrets Act, Unlawful Associations Act and the Peaceful Assembly and
Peaceful Procession Law continue to be abused to arbitrarily arrest
and detain individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of religion
or belief, freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly and association,
including on the basis of their ethnicity or political beliefs.
The Council called for open and participatory legislative processes
to repeal or reform those laws in line with the international human
rights law obligations of the Government of Myanmar.
The Council welcomed the release of political prisoners in accordance
with the obligation of the Government of Myanmar, and called upon
the Government to ensure that no one remains in prison because of
his or her political or religious beliefs, including those recently
detained or convicted, human rights defenders and students.
It further called upon the Government to fulfil its commitment to
release unconditionally all remaining political prisoners and to provide
for the full rehabilitation of former political prisoners, and to
amend restrictive laws and to end remaining curbs on exercising the
rights to the freedoms of religion or belief, expression, association
and peaceful assembly, which are essential to ensure a safe and enabling
environment, notably for civil society, journalists, human rights
defenders, lawyers, environmental and land rights activists and civilians.
It expressed concern at reports of the arrest of individuals in relation
to the exercise of those rights.
It also expressed serious concern about cases of reprisal as reported
in relation to cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights in Myanmar.
The Council emphasized that no one should face reprisals, monitoring,
surveillance, threats, harassment or intimidation for cooperating
or speaking with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council,
including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
in Myanmar, the independent international fact-finding mission or
the United Nations.
It called upon the Government of Myanmar to take appropriate measures
to prevent such acts and to combat impunity by investigating promptly
and effectively all allegations of intimidation and reprisal in order
to bring perpetrators to justice and to provide victims with appropriate
It also noted with concern ongoing reports of land confiscation and
clearance, and urged the Government of Myanmar to resolve issues of
land tenure in full consultation with the affected populations.
The Council further called upon the Government of Myanmar, including
its military and security forces, to take further steps to reform
the Constitution and to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance
and the rule of law to ensure respect for and to promote universal
human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international
norms and standards.
It stressed the need for an independent, impartial and effective judiciary
and an independent and self-governing legal profession, and called
upon the Government to ensure full compliance with its obligations
under international human rights law and international humanitarian
law, as applicable.
The Council called upon the Government of Myanmar and its institutions
to step up efforts to strengthen the protection and promotion of human
rights and the rule of law and to advance democratization and inclusive
economic and social development towards the achievement of Sustainable
Development Goals, including by reforming the Myanmar National Human
Rights Commission in accordance with the principles relating to the
status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of
human rights (the Paris Principles).
It called upon the international community to support Myanmar in this
regard, including through technical assistance and capacity-building
It encouraged all business enterprises, including transnational corporations
and domestic enterprises, to respect human rights in accordance with
the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and called upon
the Government of Myanmar to meet its duty to protect human rights.
It also called upon home States of business companies operating in
Myanmar to set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises
domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction are to respect human
rights throughout their operations.
ACTION BY COUNCIL ON SOUTH SUDAN
In its resolution on the human rights situation in South Sudan (A/HRC/37/L.40),
adopted without a vote, the Council condemned in the strongest possible
terms the ongoing violations and abuses of human rights and violations
of international humanitarian law in South Sudan, including those
involving targeted killings of civilians, ethnically targeted violence,
widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and gang
rape, which can be used as a weapon of war, the recurring recruitment
and use of children, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, arbitrary
denial of humanitarian access and attacks on schools, places of worship,
hospitals and United Nations and associated peacekeeping personnel
by all parties, and the impunity for such violence by all armed groups.
It condemned the harassment and violence directed at civil society,
human rights defenders, humanitarian personnel and journalists, and
emphasized that those responsible for violations and abuses of human
rights and violations of international humanitarian law must be held
It stressed that those responsible for violations of international
humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, including
any that amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, should be
It supported the establishment of transitional justice institutions,
and urged the Government of South Sudan to sign the memorandum of
understanding with the African Union to establish the hybrid court
for South Sudan to investigate and prosecute those responsible for
violations or abuses of international human rights and international
humanitarian law, where applicable, and/or applicable South Sudanese
The Council decided to extend the mandate of the Commission on Human
Rights in South Sudan, composed of three members, for a period of
one year, renewable as authorized by the Human Rights Council, with
the following mandate:
(a) To monitor and report on the situation of human rights in South
Sudan, and to make recommendations to prevent further deterioration
of the situation with a view to its improvement;
(b) To determine and report the facts and circumstances of, collect
and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for alleged gross
violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, including
sexual and gender-based violence and ethnic violence, with a view
to ending impunity and providing accountability, and to make such
information available also to all transitional justice mechanisms,
including those to be established pursuant to chapter V of the Agreement
on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan,
including the hybrid court for South Sudan, once established in cooperation
with the African Union;
(c) To report on the factual basis for transitional justice and reconciliation;
(d) To provide guidance on transitional justice, including accountability
and reconciliation and healing, as appropriate, and - once the Government
of South Sudan commits to cooperating with the African Union on establishing
the hybrid court for South Sudan - to make recommendations on technical
assistance to the Government to support accountability, reconciliation
(e) To engage with the Government of South Sudan, international and
regional mechanisms, including the United Nations, the United Nations
Mission in South Sudan, the African Union, including by building upon
the work of its Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan and its African
Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Intergovernmental Authority
on Development, including the Partners Forum, the Chair of the Joint
Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and civil society, with a view
to providing support to national, regional and international efforts
to promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses;
(f) To make recommendations on technical assistance and capacity-building,
as appropriate, including to law enforcement institutions, on the
promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
including on addressing sexual and gender-based violence.
In a statement, Laila Matar, Deputy UN Director at Human Rights Watch,
said: "The Council made the right decision to extend the mandate
of the Commission on South Sudan for another year to continue investigating
violations of human rights and identifying individual perpetrators.
The Commission's work is an important first step towards accountability.
Now South Sudan needs to establish the long-promised Hybrid Court
so that it can receive information from the Commission."