A Myanmar border guard police officer stands guard in Tin May village, Buthidaung township, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar July 14, 2017. 

© 2017 Simon Lewis/Reuters

(Geneva) – The United Nations needs to insist on its ability to carry out a mandated fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a series of questions and answers on the topic.

In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Council established a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Myanmar. Since then, however, various Myanmar government officials have publicly said the government plans to block these efforts by denying visas to mission members. The mission will officially begin its work in August. 

Myanmar’s threat to block the UN Fact-Finding Mission from entering the country will only end up harming the government’s standing on human rights.

John Fisher

Geneva Director

“Myanmar’s threat to block the UN Fact-Finding Mission from entering the country will only end up harming the government’s standing on human rights,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “Even if the mission doesn’t get access, we’re confident that they will carry out their work and produce a report that advances justice for the victims of human rights abuses in Myanmar.”

If Myanmar follows through on its threats and refuses to provide visas to the mission members, it will be joining an ignominious group of pariah states, including North Korea, Syria, Eritrea, and Burundi, that have denied Human Rights Council-authorized fact-finders’ access to their countries. 

Human Rights Watch is issuing the Q&A to emphasize the need for the Fact-Finding Mission’s work, to clarify the scope of its mandate, and to highlight the government’s attempts at obstruction.  

The document answers basic questions about the mission and its mandate, the current human rights situation in Myanmar, and the likely effect of visa denials on the mission.

“The United Nations needs to stand up to Myanmar’s bullying tactics of threatening visa denials,” Fisher said. “The Burmese military has long avoided any accountability for its widespread and serious abuses. Granting entry to the Fact-Finding Mission would send a signal that the government is prepared to work collaboratively with the international community to help identify perpetrators of serious crimes, and deter future crimes by all parties to Myanmar’s armed conflicts.”