November 6, 2015
“Time for the Government to Accept the Reality of Human Rights Problems, Take Effective Measures and Move Forward”
By Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum
Today, Burma/Myanmar’s human rights situation was reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. The report of the Myanmar Government’s delegation includes details of government activities to fulfill their commitments from the first UPR cycle but fails to take note serious ongoing human rights violations and challenges into account.
The 22-page National Report attempts to explain a range of reform activities undertaken by the government. However, it includes little reflection on human rights concerns raised by the Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum and many other stakeholder submissions, further indicating that the government still lacks the will to acknowledge serious human rights violations, as they used to do under military rule.
Regarding the latest developments on the judicial system, the National Report references a number of provisions in the 2008 Constitution and the Union Judicial Law with examples of efforts made by the Supreme Court to ensure judicial independence. However, there are numerous examples of the executive branch interfering in the decision-making power of judicial authorities.
“Rampant corruption and bribery, unfair rulings against political activists and human rights defenders, the absence of an independent national bar association, and impunity for security personnel are some of the major challenges for Myanmar’s judicial system today”, said Aung Myo Min, Director of Equality Myanmar.
When it comes to legal reform, the State Report proudly refers to the 171 laws that have been amended or enacted since 2011 up until the time of writing the report. In contrast, the Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum takes note of many old oppressive laws such as Myanmar Penal Code 1861 and the Unlawful Association Act 1908, more recent laws such as the media laws, the Association Registration Law, the Freedom of Assembly and Procession Law, and the national race and religion protection laws as well as the rise of ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups. “These situations are some of the main sources of threats to fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression, association, religion, and the rights of women”, said U Myo Win, Director of Smile Education and Development Foundation.
Another major concern that the Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum raised in the stakeholder joint submission is the continuation of armed conflict and its impact on ethnic populations. Ongoing fighting, fragile ceasefire agreements and the lack of acknowledgement of the rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous people are seriously undermining prospects for peace, national reconciliation and equality for ethnic people.
“The National Report makes no mention of the rights of indigenous people. Although there have been notable ceasefire achievements which are highly praised in the National Report, there is as much intense fighting today as there was before the signing of ceasefires”, said Mr. Lian Bawi Thang Coalition of Indigenous in Myanmar/Burma.
Recent intensified fighting between the Burma Army and Shan State Army – North (SSA-N) forces last month has left more than 6,000 people newly displaced, adding to the existing hundreds of thousands of civilians who were displaced by armed conflict since the current government took office five years ago. This has raised great concerns over the sincerity and commitment of the government and the Burma Army in a genuine peace process.
As Myanmar stands two days away from a historic election day, there have been reports of widespread human rights violations related to the elections including violence against electoral candidates and campaign volunteers, arbitrary arrests and intimidation, systematic prohibition of Muslim candidates from contesting, and the exclusion of millions of eligible voters from overseas and inside the country, particularly religious and ethnic minorities. Yet, there have been no serious efforts from the government or the Union Election Commission to address them.
In sum, despite the much praised reform process, serious human rights violations continue until the final days of the current government’s term in office. The Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum is very concerned that the government lacks the will to acknowledge ongoing human rights violations and continues to deny problems until these final days. We call on the Government to recognize the reality of the human rights situation on the ground and begin genuine efforts to address its human rights challenges as one of the first steps for a genuine reform process.
For more information please contact:
Aung Myo Min – Equality Myanmar (+41 76771 3553) email@example.com (Switzerland)
Myo Win – Smile Education and Development Foundation (+41 76293 7607) (Switzerland)
Lian Bawi Thang, Coalition of Indigenous Peoples in Myanmar/Burma (+41 78694 3857) (Switzerland)
Joseph Wah, Equality Myanmar 95 9 799 040344) firstname.lastname@example.org (Burma/Myanmar)
Khin Ohmar, Burma Partnership (+66 81 884 0772) email@example.com (Thailand)
Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism for peer-to-peer engagement between UN member states, where human rights situation of each member state is reviewed by the UPR Working Group comprised of all member states. Each country is reviewed every 4-5 years during the UPR circle. Copies of the Myanmar National Report and of all submissions to the Working Group on UPR are available on the OHCHR website here. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/MMSession23.aspx
The Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum was formed for a collective engagement in the UPR process. It is comprised of 30 Myanmar civil society organizations working on promotion and protection of human rights.