Wednesday, 19 March 2014

UN Human Rights Council: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma

March 17, 2014
Human Rights Watch welcomes Tomas Ojea Quintana’s last report after six years as Special Rapporteur, and we agree with all his main findings. Despite significant improvements in freedom of expression and release of political prisoners, many serious human rights concerns remain in the country. The government’s legal reform process should ensure that all new laws are in line with international human rights standards, and that existing laws that do not meet such standards, including a number of provisions of the penal code, be repealed or amended. The Special Rapporteur makes special mention of the failure of the authorities to take steps against those threatening the Muslim community. He also noted the ongoing arrest and prosecution of people for peaceful assembly and demonstrations related to land disputes; the government-formed prisoner review committee should continue its work in 2014 looking into new arrests and sentencing of people for peaceful protest. The judiciary lacks independence and has made little progress in reforming.

There has been little progress to date on incorporating human rights provisions into the nationwide ceasefire process. Among key issues to be addressed are a lack of women’s participation in the process, ongoing impunity by the Burmese military, and ad-hoc and inconsistent access for humanitarian assistance to reach over 100,000 internally displaced persons in Kachin State and 400,000 in eastern Burma.

In Rakhine State, we share the Special Rapporteur’s concerns over restrictions on humanitarian access and the long-term effects of segregation, denial of basic services and effective denial of citizenship for the ethnic Rohingya Muslim population.

Human Rights Watch supports the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that the Human Rights Council works with the government to establish a credible investigation into the Du Chee Yar Tan incident in Rakhine State in January, and the need for the government to hold all those responsible for abuses to account. We do not believe that the three government-led investigations were credible, or that the almost total denial of access to the media and independent human rights groups is conducive to establishing the truth.

Human Rights Watch found that widespread and systematic abuses perpetrated against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in October 2012 amount to crimes against humanity, and note that the Special Rapporteur has reached the same conclusion.

Human Rights Watch finally urges the Burmese government to permit the establishment of an OHCHR office in Yangon with full reporting mandate as well as technical assistance.

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