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Implementation is Key to UN Rights Response

Human Rights Watch statement - Secretary-General’s report on Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s report on the UN involvement in Myanmar states that it:

explores the structural and systemic factors that, notwithstanding the lessons learned in previous cases – notably, in Sri Lanka – appear to have been repeated in Myanmar, despite the adoption in 2014 of the “Human Rights up Front” initiative, designed precisely to avoid the repetition of the Sri Lankan experience.

Discouragingly, the report on the systemic failings of the international community in Myanmar identifies the same structural tensions as did the Petrie Report on Sri Lanka: failures to integrate human rights across the UN system, and an approach that favored access and dialogue over accountability. We note that China’s draft resolution this session would entrench this flawed approach by elevating “mutually beneficial cooperation” over the Human Rights Council’s accountability mandate.

The Secretary-General opened this session with a “call to action on human rights.” Yet, despite that call, when the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka indicated to this Council - just two days later - that his government would renege on its commitments for justice and accountability, the Council’s response was muted at best.

To bring the Secretary-General’s call to life, a number of steps are needed:

First, implementation is key, and the Secretary-General himself should lead by example by using the full weight of his office to address human rights violations, call out violators, and advocate for victims.

Second, the Human Rights Council needs to take robust action when presented with evidence of grave violations – for example, by advancing accountability in Myanmar, creating an international accountability mechanism in Sri Lanka, and ensuring independent reporting on the rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region.

Finally, we would encourage follow-up to today’s report through a future update to assess progress towards implementation of its recommendations.

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