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Statement by Ms. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on
the occasion of the 5h Special session of the Human Rights Council


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Geneva, 2 October 2007

Mr. President.
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome the initiative of this Council to hold a special session on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

The peaceful protests we have witnessed in recent weeks and the shocking
response by the authorities are only the most recent manifestations of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms that has taken place for nearly twenty years in Myanmar. I pay tribute to the many monks and students, and thousands of ordinary Burmese citizens who have been peacefully claiming their fundamental rights. We owe them our solidarity. We owe them effective and concerted action.

The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that their self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability. Through modern media and information technology we have had unprecedented access to news and images of what has been happening on the streets of Yangon.

However, in recent days a deafening silence resonates from the streets that the demonstrators have not voluntarily abandoned. As the protesters have become invisible, our concern only increases for the safety and well being of the monks, presumably confined to their monasteries, if not worse, and for the hundreds of people arrested in the course of the demonstrations, and for those wounded and removed from the streets to unknown locations.

The Government must give a full account for its actions during and after the protests, including precise and verifiable information on the number of people killed and injured, as well as on the whereabouts and conditions of those who were arrested. It must give humanitarian organizations full access to detainees, and facilitate international monitoring of its activities, particularly in light of recent allegations of night time raids and a general climate of intimidation.

Excellencies,

Myanmar’s regional neighbours are uniquely positioned to exercise their individual and collective influence for the protection of human rights in Myanmar. In this context, I welcome the statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers urging Myanmar to desist from the use of violence and to seek a political solution.

At their 2005 Summit the World leaders agreed that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians against serious international crimes. The exercise of such responsibility requires that preventive, reactive and rebuilding measures be put in place to avert and confront crises, as well as to prepare the ground for justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights to take hold.

When the situation in Myanmar was first considered by the Security Council in January this year, several members expressed the view that the Human Rights Council was the proper forum to deal with the human rights concerns as they then existed. There can be no doubt about the need for action in this Council now.

It is of the utmost importance that the situation in Myanmar be both clarified and monitored. As we seek to prevent the outbreak of further overt violence and abuse, we must deploy all efforts to reach those clearly in need of international protection, including those whose fate is unknown.

Along with the political initiatives underway, the Human Rights Council should use means commensurate to the occasion to impress upon the Government of Myanmar the urgent need to implement its international human rights obligations and to account publicly for past and on-going violations.

Thank you.