The military authorities must not be allowed to exacerbate the situation of the Rohingyas, says UN deputy high commissioner for human rights
Years of inaction on the Myanmar military by the international community contributed to the most recent coup in the country, Deputy United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif said on Friday.
In a statement at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she also said the military authorities must not be allowed to exacerbate the situation of the Rohingyas, a community that has been suffering immensely for decades.
“This crisis was born of impunity. Long-standing lack of civilian control over the military, its disproportionate influence in the country’s political and economic structures, and ongoing failure to genuinely account for crimes committed by the security forces over decades, have combined to compromise Myanmar’s democratization and indeed, its development,” said the deputy high commissioner.
“For over 20 years, successive high commissioners and many eminent experts have briefed this council, and its predecessor, on violations committed by the country's military, which include some of the most serious crimes alleged under international law,” she said.
“Lack of action to address them has emboldened military leaders and contributed to this present crisis,” she added.
About the Rohingyas, Nada al-Nashif said: “The military authorities must not be allowed to exacerbate the situation of the Rohingya people, after the extreme violence and decades of discrimination that they have endured.
“Myanmar must fully comply with the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice, and move to genuinely address the root causes of conflicts in Rakhine State and other ethnic minority areas,” she said.
The official of the UN human rights body described the coup as a profound setback for the country, after a decade of hard-won gains in its democratic transition.
Myanmar’s democratically elected political leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, has been detained on politically motivated charges, she said.
“Our office is tracking more than 350 political and state officials, activists and civil society members, including journalists, monks and students, who have been taken into custody. Several face criminal charges on dubious grounds. Most have received no form of due process and have not been permitted legal representation, family visitations or communication. Some remain missing, with no information as to their whereabouts or well-being,” she told the special session.
“The high commissioner and I greatly admire the conviction of the demonstrators – many of them young people and women, from diverse ethnic backgrounds – who have peacefully marched and participated in other activities to oppose the coup and the crackdown,” Nada al-Nashif said.
“It is they who represent Myanmar's future: a future of shared justice and equitably shared national wealth, amid harmonious relationships between peoples and communities,” she added.
The deputy high commissioner said: “The world is watching. Draconian orders have been issued this week to prevent peaceful assembly and free expression, and police and military presence on the streets has grown progressively over the last several days.
“Let us be clear: the indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons against peaceful protestors is unacceptable. More violence against Myanmar’s people will only compound the illegitimacy of the coup and the culpability of its leaders,” she warned.
Nada al-Nashif said: “As this council’s own fact-finding mission warned explicitly in 2018, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) is the greatest impediment to Myanmar’s development as a modern democratic nation. Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw Min Aung Hlaing and all the current leadership must be replaced, and a complete restructuring must be undertaken to place the Tatmadaw under full civilian control. Myanmar’s democratic transition depends on it.”
To the international community, she said: “I express my concern that any sanctions under consideration should be carefully targeted against specific individuals who are credibly alleged to have violated people's rights. Leaders of this coup are an appropriate focus of such actions. It is of critical importance that no harm should be inflicted on the most vulnerable people in the country, and that assistance to help fight the pandemic can continue alongside humanitarian support in conflict areas.”
The top official told the Human Rights Council: “We recommend the strongest possible call for the military authorities to respect the result of the election, to return power to civilian control and to immediately release all individuals arbitrarily detained. They should have prompt access to legal representation and medical support, and specious criminal charges should be dropped. Internet and telecommunications restrictions must be lifted to allow media freedoms and access to information through the Internet.
“We regret that our office has long been denied a presence in Myanmar, and urge the military authorities to grant the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar full and immediate access,” she added.