Human Rights Watch welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar which outlines ongoing challenges to improve the rights of Rohingya Muslims, end grave violations of the laws of war in Kachin State, ensure humanitarian aid reaches populations in need, and the need to reform or revoke rights-abusing laws.
The Human Rights Council’s support for reform in Burma should not veil international concern about continued serious abuses in the country. The council should endorse continued monitoring and reporting on Burma to move human rights reform forward and address the many challenging human rights issues that remain.
Pledges made by Thein Sein on November 19, 2012 included a promise to invite the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office, implementation of a mechanism to review the cases of political prisoners still in prison, ending violence in Arakan State and holding accountable those responsible for attacks, and permitting the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume prison visits and monitor conflict areas. But most of them remain unfulfilled.
Human Rights Watch urges the Human Rights Council to call on the government of Burma to take the following steps to further the reform process:
- Sign a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of an office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country that has a full mandate for rights monitoring, protection, and technical assistance.
- Fulfill the pledge to release remaining political prisoners and fully support the work of the political prisoner review mechanism established by the government in February.
- Take all necessary measures to end human rights abuses that continue to be committed by the military, most notably in Kachin State, and hold accountable those responsible for such abuses.
- Set a clear target date for the review of existing laws, decrees, and regulations that have been used to prosecute peaceful dissidents and otherwise violate fundamental rights, with the aim to revoke them or bring them into compliance with international human rights standards.
- Fulfill the pledge to “pursue sustainable political solutions that address efficient governance and rights of ethnic nationalities” in Burma. Addressing this issue should include amending the 1982 Citizenship Law, whose discriminatory provisions have been used to deny citizenship to most Rohingya Muslims and other minority groups.
These concerns should be reflected in the Human Rights Council’s resolution adopted at this session.