14 March 2017, Tue, 11:03

UN expert calls for independent probe

Rights violations in Myanmar

UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee today made a fresh call for “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations” into the killings and other serious human rights violations in Myanmar.

 “No stones must be left unturned. The alleged victims, as well as all the people of Myanmar deserve to know the truth,” Lee said during the presentation of her third report to the UN Human Rights Council today.

“Of particular concern are multiple cases of killings of civil society actors for their involvement in human rights work and activism, including several in recent months, as well as cases which remain unresolved even after years of relatives of victims demanding justice. Many of these cases relate to vested commercial interests or the military.”

She was particularly disturbed by the brutal killing of one of Myanmar’s best known Constitutional lawyers, U Ko Ni, as he was holding his grandchild, according to a UN press release issued in Geneva today.

The expert called for a Commission of Inquiry into the events in Rakhine State, where allegations of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by the armed forces have been surfacing “increasingly and persistently”.

“I heard allegation after allegation of horrific events like these – slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and the throwing of very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” said the Special Rapporteur, referring to her visit to Bangladesh last month to meet individuals who had fled Rakhine state.

Lee also called for investigations and a “dedicated and urgent discussion” at the Human Rights Council into human rights violations occurring in other parts of the country.

Lee also said that she continues to receive reports of serious violations committed by all parties to the conflict, including torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, sexual- and gender-based violence, arbitrary killings, and abductions, adding that, “many of these violations have also gone uninvestigated, with the situation in these areas worsening and still receiving little attention.”

“I am extremely concerned by the escalation of conflict in Kachin and Shan States which is having a dramatic impact on civilians in these areas,” she said, highlighting reports that over 10,000 people were displaced last week from Kokang Self-Administered Zone.

Lee also expressed concern that the United Nations and other international organisations have been systematically denied authorisation to deliver vital and, in some cases, lifesaving assistance to over 40,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) since May 2016.

The expert welcomed the increasing representation of women in discussions making up the peace process, calling for the minimum level of 30% across all groups to be reached at the next conference. She noted, nonetheless, that, “the peace process at the moment appears to be at a stalemate” and called on, “all parties to increase efforts to advance the process.”

The Special Rapporteur also welcomed the increased efforts of the government to engage with her. She reiterated her approach to the mandate as being a friend of Myanmar, with her only bias being towards the human rights of all the people in the country. 

“As I have always done, I present myself, and my mandate, as a source for support and assistance towards Myanmar’s aim of becoming a fully functioning democracy aspiring to be respected in the international fora.”