HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL STRONGLY DEPLORES CONTINUED VIOLENT
REPRESSION OF PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS IN MYANMAR
|Human Right Council |
AFTERNOON 2 October 2007
Urges Government of Myanmar to Ensure Full Respect for Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted by consensus a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar in which it strongly deplored the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, including through beatings, killings and enforced disappearances, and urged the Government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and to desist from further violence against peaceful protesters.
The Council also urged the Government of Myanmar to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to end impunity and to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations. It urged the Government to release without delay those arrested and detained as a result of the recent repression of peaceful protests, as well as to release all political detainees in Myanmar, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Council further urged Myanmar to engage urgently in a national dialogue with all parties with a view to achieving genuine national reconciliation, democratization and the establishment of the rule of law.
In the resolution, the Council also requested the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to assess the current human rights situation and to monitor the implementation of this resolution, including by seeking an urgent visit to Myanmar, and to report to the resumed sixth session of the Human Rights Council. It urged the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in concluding remarks, said that of the 50 countries that had spoken, all had requested Myanmar to show restraint. But the Government had not shown restrain in the past, neither was it showing it in the present. The Special Envoy had just met with government leaders and opposition leaders. It was hoped that the Government would be able to show restraint as a result of these meetings. The Council had to become involved in the success of the Special Envoy’s mission. Dialogue could be achieved though meetings and contacts. Countries of the region had an outstanding role to play in this process.
Myanmar, in concluding remarks, said the Human Rights Commission – which had pursued the game of naming and shaming on weak countries – had been replaced by the Human Rights Council. The Council should not repeat the same mistakes its predecessor body made in the past, or it would set a dangerous precedent for small and weak countries like Myanmar. The Human Rights Council was not the forum to be used for political expression, and therefore Myanmar rejected the politicized approach of this session. The approach of the Council should not be condemnatory.
In the general debate of the Special Session, which opened this morning, speakers, among other things, condemned the use of violence against peaceful civilian demonstrators, and said the authorities should respect the human rights of all Burmese citizens, including civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as the situation in all of these areas was disastrous. Violence could not be condoned in any circumstances; the Government should embark on a peaceful dialogue with pro-democracy leaders and all parties concerned. The United Nations was the best hope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and the authorities were urged to cooperate with Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General.
Speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Greece, Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand, Norway, Morocco, Sweden, Iceland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, Liechtenstein, United States, Finland, Czech Republic, Chile, Slovakia, Colombia, Latvia, Poland, Viet Nam, Spain, Belgium, Cambodia, Estonia, Argentina, Portugal on behalf of the European Union, India, the Russian Federation, India, and the Philippines.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (speaking on behalf of several NGOs1); International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; Amnesty International; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Human Rights Watch; International Commission of Jurists; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; United Nations Watch; and Worldview International Foundation.
This was the fifth Special Session of the Human Rights Council, which suspended its sixth regular session on Friday, 28 September. The resumed part of the sixth regular session will be held from 10 to 14 December.
Resolution on Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
In a resolution (A/HRC/S-5/L.1/Rev.1) on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, adopted by consensus as orally amended, the Council strongly deplores the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, including through beatings, killings and enforced disappearances, and urges the Government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and to desist from further violence against peaceful protesters; urges the Government of Myanmar to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to end impunity and to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations, including for the recent violations of the rights of peaceful protesters; also urges the Government of Myanmar to release without delay those arrested and detained as a result of the recent repression of peaceful protests, as well as to release all political detainees in Myanmar, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and to ensure that conditions of detention meet international standards and include the possibility of visiting any detainee; further urges the Government of Myanmar to lift all restraints on peaceful political activity of all persons by, inter alia, guaranteeing freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of opinion and expression; welcomes the decision of the Government to receive a visit by the Special Envoy to Myanmar of the United Nations Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, and calls upon the Government to cooperate fully with him to find a peaceful solution; urges the Government of Myanmar to engage urgently in a reinvigorated national dialogue with all parties with a view to achieving genuine national reconciliation, democratization and the establishment of the rule of law; urges the Government to cooperate fully with humanitarian organizations; requests the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to assess the current human rights situation and to monitor the implementation of this resolution, including by seeking an urgent visit to Myanmar, and to report to the resumed sixth session of the Human Rights Council, and in this respect urges the Government of Myanmar to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur; also requests the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to inform the General Assembly at its sixty-second session on progress in this regard; and decides to remain seized of this matter.
Introduction of the Resolution
FRANCISCO XAVIER ESTEVES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introducing the draft resolution A/HRC/S-5/L.1/Rev.1, said there had been open-ended informal consultations on the draft resolution, in line with the institution-building package last June. There had been efforts to produce a strong and effective text adopted by consensus. The European Union outlined oral amendments to operational paragraphs 1, 4, and 6 of the text.
The amended draft aimed to send a message to the Government of Myanmar, urging it to prevent further violations of human rights, desist from violence, guarantee full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, bring justice to human rights violators, and engage in urgent national dialogue with all parties with a view to achieving genuine reconciliation, democratization and the rule of law. The draft said the Government should continue to cooperate with the Council's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and requested the Special Rapporteur to visit Myanmar and monitor implementation of the present draft resolution. Portugal was confident the United Nations Secretary-General would provide the Special Rapporteur with necessary means to fulfil his tasks.
Explanations of Vote after the Vote
SWASHPAWAN SINGH (India), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said India had always advocated an outcome that was forward-looking, non-condemnatory, and sought to involve the authorities in Myanmar in a peaceful outcome, and regretted that the text adopted was not in line with that approach. It did not engage constructively with the authorities in Myanmar. However, India had joined the consensus, in the hope that the further activities of the Council in this matter would be more constructive.
ANTON VASILIEV (Russian Federation), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the Russian Federation had repeatedly emphasized that resolutions should be adopted by consensus during Special Sessions, and had therefore joined the consensus. However, the Russian Federation expressed dissatisfaction with certain parts of the wording of the text adopted, as it did not assess the problems sufficiently and was unbalanced in nature. The changes that had been made were inadequate and did not make the document balanced. The resolution should not be a condemnation of the Government, but an encouragement for it to follow the path of democratization. Russian had not wanted to break the consensus, but would have abstained if the resolution had been put to a vote.
ERLINDA F. BASILIO (Philippines), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the Philippines welcomed the constructive, consensual approach adopted in the resolution. These were the most effective means by which the Council could promote and protect human rights.
Concluding Statement by Myanmar as Concerned Country
NYUNT SWE (Myanmar), speaking as a concerned country, said Myanmar wished to express deep appreciation to those countries that had appreciated Myanmar’s situation. The Human Rights Commission – which had pursued the game of naming and shaming on weak countries – had been replaced by the Human Rights Council. The Council should not repeat the same mistakes its predecessor body made in the past, or it would set a dangerous precedent for small and weak countries like Myanmar. The Human Rights Council was not the forum to be used for political expression, and therefore Myanmar rejected the politicized approach of this session. The approach of the Council should not be condemnatory.
ARJAN HAMBURGER (Netherlands) said he had been in Burma exactly one week ago, the day before the crackdown, as he had been requested to investigate the situation on the ground, and report to his Government. In his discussions with representatives of the Government, he had urged restraint with regards to the protestors and called for the release of demonstrators and other detainees, including Nobel Peace Price Winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The representative of the Government said the latter wished for a peaceful resolution to the situation, but this had not taken place - the situation had escalated, and the legitimate expression of monks and nuns had been repressed in violence. The situation warranted the international community’s intervention. The use of violence was condemned, and the authorities should respect the human rights of all Burmese citizens, including civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, as the situation in all of these areas was disastrous. The Netherlands was of the opinion that non-compliance with the international response should not be ignored. The Council should address urgent human rights situations - and the situation in Burma was very serious indeed. The Government was not committed to promoting democracy or human rights, but promoted a climate of fear.
BLAISE GODET (Switzerland) said the Human Rights Council had to intervene in accordance with its mandate to protect human rights and send a clear message to the people and Government of Myanmar. Arbitrary detentions, acts of violence, and summary executions had occurred in recent days in Myanmar. Switzerland stressed that the rights to freedom of expression and assembly were fundamental rights. Peaceful demonstrators who had been detained and political prisoners should be freed forthwith. There were also reports of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual violence and deaths in detention. The situation was grave and Switzerland continued to regret that the Myanmar authorities had not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to undertake its work in the country. Switzerland called on the authorities to facilitate humanitarian access and cooperate with international organizations. It invited the authorities to take steps to ensure the people were fed, clothed and housed in decent conditions, since success in national reconciliation would follow if living conditions were improved.
CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia) said that Australia strongly supported this Special Session and was extremely concerned about the situation in Myanmar. The Council needed to act now. The violent response against the peaceful demonstrations was appalling. Australia urged the regime to release all political prisoners as well as those detained since the protests. The recent protests were a clear call for a democratic change. Strong credible action by the Human Rights Council was important. Australia expected the resolution to be adopted by consensus. The Government was strongly urged to cooperate with the Special Envoy and the Special Rapporteur. Australia also expressed its condolences to the victims of the demonstrations.
FRANCISCOS VERROS (Greece) said Greece was deeply concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Myanmar, and the continuing recourse by the authorities to violence seriously affected the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly. Greece had repeatedly condemned the violations of human rights in Myanmar. Violence could not be condoned under any circumstances; the Government should embark on a peaceful dialogue with pro-democracy leaders and all parties concerned. The Human Rights Council had a duty to act in cases where systematic human rights violations occurred. The protection and promotion of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community. It was of utmost importance that the Government refrain from continuing violence against peaceful protestors, release all political prisoners, and re-establish human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country. Greece supported the mission of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy.
SYED HASSIM SYED NOUREDDIN (Singapore) said Singapore was deeply troubled by the situation unfolding in Myanmar. Foreign Ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations had met last week in New York to condemn the violence and urge the authorities to desist in using it, seek a political solution by resuming efforts towards national reconciliation, and pursue a peaceful transition to democracy. The Ministers had called for the release of political prisoners. The situation in Myanmar had implications across the region. The United Nations was the best hope for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and the authorities were urged to cooperate with Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. Singapore broadly supported the draft resolution, though elements of it were simplistic and did not focus on the issue at hand. A fresh approach was needed to restore normalcy and give hope to the people of Myanmar.
NIK KIDDLE (New Zealand) said New Zealand remained profoundly concerned about the situation in Myanmar. The actions against protestors were unacceptable. Myanmar had an obligation to protect the human rights of its people, including the right to freedom of expression. Myanmar would be held accountable. It should open a genuine dialogue with all parties. Political prisoners should be released, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Human Rights Council had an important role and the Myanmar situation was a key test for it. Full collaboration with the Special Rapporteur should be resumed. There were some countries in the region that would be able to play a constructive part in the betterment of the situation. New Zealand fully supported the draft resolution.
SIHASAK PHUANGKET KEOW (Thailand) said Thailand was gravely concerned about recent events in Myanmar and the violence that had taken place. Thailand was concerned as a fellow predominantly-Buddhist country, sharing the same beliefs of non-violence and tolerance. The Chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations had also issued a strong and clear statement on the matter. The Government of Thailand believed it was incumbent upon the international community to seize the opportunity of the present situation to look ahead together and see how it could help assist the situation in Myanmar to move forward in a constructive and positive direction. Thailand fully supported the mission of Ibrahim Gambari, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, and was convinced that he had an instrumental role to play in this matter. Democracy entailed many challenges, and required constant nurturing. The quest for democratic rule was not an easy one, and could not be achieved overnight - however, the democratic form of Government offered the best hope for fulfilling the needs and aspirations of peoples. All sides should resume the quest for national reconciliation and work towards the path of democratisation for the good of the people and the region at large.
HILDE SKORPEN (Norway) said this Special Session was an expression of the international community’s profound concern. The brutal attempt to block democratisation was deeply alarming and the media crackdown showed the length to which the authorities were prepared to go. Norway condemned the violence, and said monks, nuns and human rights defenders should not be so targeted while expressing their universal human rights. National reconciliation must be stepped up, the rule of law must be established, and all detainees and political prisoners should be released. Full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access should be ensured. The Myanmar authorities should cooperate fully with the United Nations and its mechanisms, and Norway looked forward to hearing Ibrahim Gambari’s report on the situation. These were massive, grave and systematic human rights abuses. The Special Rapporteur must be given access as a matter of urgency and the Human Rights Council should remain seized of the situation there.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that the current situation in Myanmar was disturbing and it had been denounced by the Security Council, the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner as well as by neighbouring States. The decision to dispatch the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy was welcomed. His mission was a test to the will of the Government to respond to the calls of the international community. Until now, the Government had not shown the smallest concessions to favour political openness and had continued its policy of human rights violations. It was hoped that the current visit of the Special Envoy would result in the coming days in signs of a concrete will by the Government to respect human rights. Neighbouring States could help to improve the situation.
HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said he had visited Yangon as a representative of the Government of Sweden and returned just two days ago. He had witnessed the Government’s brutal crackdown on monks and unarmed civilians, who were fired on after being given a brief warning to disperse, and were shot whilst fleeing. Last Thursday, when for the first time there were no monks taking part in the demonstration, a group of young monks who joined demonstrators were greeted as heroes by the latter, showing courage seemingly without limits. Where were they today, the speaker wondered? In a country where police and military fired on their own people, the speaker had witnessed how the regime was trying to instil complete and utter fear in another generation. The lack of information in Yangon was impossible to comprehend - and it was simply unacceptable. All prisoners of conscience, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and all arrested over the last weeks, should be freed, and humanitarian bodies given access to penal institutions. Burma/Myanmar’s neighbours had a crucial role to play in the situation. All should continue to reject violence, and do the utmost to facilitate dialogue. Violence would not stop the international community’s engagement.
KRISTIN N F. ARNASON (Iceland) said Iceland expressed deep concern over the detention of the democratically elected leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the brutal repression of political dissent that had been going on. Iceland condemned violent repression, arbitrary detention, killings and beatings, and called on the Myanmar authorities to ensure full respect for human rights and lift all restraints on political activity. Detainees should be released, investigations begun into violations that had occurred, steps taken to alleviate the economic hardship currently being endured, and overdue reforms introduced. The Government of Myanmar should extend full cooperation to the United Nations to help all parties find a peaceful resolution.
JEAN FEYDER (Luxemburg) expressed the hope that today’s Special Session would contribute to put an end to the use of violence and arbitrary detentions by the Government of Myanmar. These acts constituted international crimes. The use of violence against peaceful demonstrators was condemned. It was important to also look at the other continuous human rights violations that were taking place in the country. Luxembourg hoped that the International Red Cross Committee could soon resume its visits of prisons.
MARIE LOUISE OVERVAD (Denmark) said the events which had taken place in Burma/Myanmar over the last days had shocked all - not for the first time had the Government decided to disregard fundamental human rights. The Burmese people’s wish for national reconciliation and democracy, which was the only way to achieve long-lasting peace and stability, had once again been violently rejected. Peaceful demonstrators had been denied their right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of speech, the freedom from arbitrary detention, and many other human rights, among them the most basic right of all - the right to life. The Government’s actions should be unequivocally condemned, and the international community should take the appropriate actions. Burma’s neighbours should play a central role in leading the Government towards the path of national reconciliation. The Human Rights Council was ready to play its role: it should act now and should be firm.
DAITHI O' CEALLAIGH (Ireland) said Ireland supported the convening of the Special Session and also endorsed the World Food Programme’s call for the Burmese authorities to lift the restrictions on the movement of food. Ireland welcomed the international unanimity being shown in regard to the need for the Government to cease violence, engage in dialogue and release all political prisoners, and initiate meaningful national reconciliation. The current semblance of calm on the streets hid widespread repression, unacknowledged deaths, beatings and incarceration and hundreds of monks and citizens unaccounted for. Ireland condemned the use of force against monks, nuns and unarmed civilians exercising their basic right to freedom of expression. The aspirations of the Burmese people remained unchanged. They could not be quelled by brute force.
ISABEL FROMMELT (Liechtenstein) welcomed the Special Session on the human rights situation in Myanmar. It showed that the Council was able to fulfil its responsibility. Liechtenstein condemned the military crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. The Government of Myanmar was urged to immediately desist from further repression, to respect human rights, to release political prisoners and to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations. Full cooperation with the United Nations was key to putting an immediate end to the human rights violations.
WARREN W. TICHENOR (United States) said the United States had watched in horror as the regime in Burma had reacted with brutal violence to the peaceful expressions of its own people. Instead of dialogue, they had been beaten back - the Burmese Government had been violently repressing, arresting, beating, shooting and killing its own people in order to preserve its unearned power. The serious unrest caused by the junta’s actions further hindered its ability to deal with existing situations that had significant regional impact. Many nations had called upon the junta to stop the violence which it had unleashed against peaceful protesters, release all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and begin a genuine dialogue with those who wanted democracy, and with ethnic minorities. All countries should use every effort to persuade the regime to end the violence and permit a peaceful transition to civilian, democratic Government, and in so doing help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom.
VESA HIMANEN (Finland) said Finland joined others in condemning the use of force in the suppression of peaceful protest. The end of violence must be the immediate aim. The Government of Myanmar should cooperate with the international community in order to confirm details of those killed or arrested, and the circumstances under which those detained were held. Limiting information access, including Internet and telephone access, was a step in the wrong direction. Ending violence was just a first step. There was also a need to focus on arbitrary detentions, to investigate violations and to take action against those responsible. The eyes of the world would be turned today on the Council as it demonstrated its resolve. Wide, cross-regional support in this was vital.
PAVEL HRNCIR (Czech Republic) said that the current Special Session was a promising proof of the Human Rights Council’s commitment to its fundamental mission. People in Myanmar kept calling for the recognition of their fundamental rights. In spite of facing long-term and serious human rights violations, the people kept protesting in a non-violent manner. The international community could not neglect such a demonstration of commitment to peace. It was still not known how many people had been killed. It was the responsibility of the international community to force the Government of Myanmar to stop the human rights violations. The situation had to be closely followed by the international community.
EDUARDO CHIHUAILAF (Chile) said the events that took place over the past days in Myanmar merited the holding of this Special Session. A few days ago, Chile had expressed its concern and condemnation of the events that occurred in Myanmar. There should be a return to democracy in that country, involving all political and ethnic sectors of that society. Together with a cessation of violence and the start of the democratic process, all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should be freed. Chile endorsed the visit of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and hoped he would help resolve the conflict. The Government of Myanmar should cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Myanmar as a whole would be the first to benefit from cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and the international community.
ANTON PINTER (Slovakia) said Slovakia was among those who had supported the convening of the Special Session and along with the international community, it was gravely concerned about the situation in Myanmar. Slovakia condemned the use of force against those exercising their fundamental rights of free expression and assembly. Slovakia called on the Government of Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and seek a peaceful solution through dialogue with all parties committed to the national reconciliation process. Detained persons and political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should be released.
ALMA VIVIANA PEREZ (Colombia) expressed the concern of Colombia over the situation in Myanmar in which many civilians had lost their lives and freedom of expression had been jeopardized. Colombia hoped that the constructive spirit which had prevailed in the Council would help to find a solution to the situation.
JANIS MAZEIKS (Latvia) said the peaceful demonstrations showed the strong wish of the people of Myanmar for democratic reform. Latvia had also moved rapidly from totalitarianism to democracy with peaceful demonstrations like these, and considered it particularly important for the international community to maintain its involvement. National reconciliation and democratic change would bring about broader change in the economic situation. For this, the functions of parliament should be renewed, providing possibilities for the voice of opposition to be heard. As a first step, political prisoners should be freed. The Government should cooperate with the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.
ZDZISLAW RAPACKI (Poland) said Poland was deeply concerned about the tragic developments in the Union of Myanmar, namely the bloody suppression by the military authorities of peaceful demonstrations; such suppressions were a violation of the noblest universally recognised democratic and humanitarian values. The military authorities should cease violence, repression, beatings, killings and arbitrary detentions, and immediately begin an effective process of national reconciliation, in cooperation with all political and social groups, for the purpose restoring democracy in the Union of Myanmar and guaranteeing the people’s legitimate civil and political rights. Any improvement of the human rights situation in any state was dependent on dialogue, both internal and international, and the authorities of Burma/Myanmar should engage immediately in a cooperative dialogue with all United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
PHAM QUOC TRU (Viet Nam) said that as a regional country, Viet Nam was deeply concerned and was closely following the situation in Myanmar. The difficulties and challenges the country was facing in the process of implementing national reconciliation were understood. All concerned parties were expected to exercise self-restraint and to return to dialogue. Viet Nam highly appreciated the ongoing efforts made by the Government in cooperation with the Special Envoy and hoped that it would lead to positive results. Viet Nam hoped that the current Special Session would bring about constructive results.
SILVIA ESCOBAR (Spain) said Spain added its voice to the others of the international community expressing concern. The image of peaceful protests by Buddhist monks and the brutal repression of the demonstrations had highlighted the grave situation in Myanmar. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had earlier mentioned the issue of impunity, and the Special Rapporteur should be allowed to visit Myanmar and enjoy the Government’s cooperation, as should the Secretary General’s Special Envoy. Isolation was one of the chief enemies of human rights. Spain supported all national and international actors involved in striving to achieve a peaceful solution. Freedom of expression and association were essential rights and the time had come for the Government of Myanmar to turn its attention to the peaceful resolution of the crisis and renewal of the national reconciliation process.
BART OUVRY (Belgium) said that, during the last session of the Council, speakers had regretted the lack of cooperation of the Government of Myanmar with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country. The Government of Myanmar should respect its international commitments with regard to human rights, and cooperate with the mechanisms of the Council. Today, the situation was grave, and this appeal was ever more topical.
It was important to remember the reasons and concerns which had brought the Council together in Special Session: the situation in Myanmar had become worse over the past few days, with disproportionate and grave acts of violence taking place. The violence was not the fault of the demonstrators – it was the Governmental forces which had beaten, detained and killed ordinary citizens, including monks, simply because they were exercising their right to peacefully demonstrate and exercise the freedom of expression. There should be a transition towards a democratic process, and in this context, Belgium appealed for all political prisoners to be freed. All restrictions on the right to demonstrate should be lifted, as should those on freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression. Myanmar should also cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights.
CHHEANG VUN (Cambodia) welcomed the initiative to hold a Special Session of the Council on the situation in Myanmar. Cambodia also fully supported the Secretary-General's decision to send his Special Envoy to Myanmar, and welcomed the decision of the Government of Myanmar to facilitate that visit. Cambodia called for full cooperation by all parties to achieve national reconciliation and find a peaceful solution.
TONIS NIRK (Estonia) said the need for urgent action was vital. The right to freedom of expression and assembly were at the core of human rights. Estonia hoped this Special Session would send a message to the people of Myanmar that they were not alone. Estonia urged full cooperation by the Government of Myanmar with the international community and United Nations mechanisms.
HECTOR RAUL PELAEZ (Argentina) said there was concern about the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Myanmar, in particular the right to life. In all countries there should be freedom of expression and assembly. Argentina had voted in the General Assembly on resolutions expressing the serious concern of the international community on the situation prevailing in Myanmar. Argentina fully supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, as well as that of the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. Argentina reiterated its deep conviction that it was only in a democracy and in an atmosphere of freedom, peace, and social justice that a people could truly develop. Myanmar should follow that path.
AUNG MYO MIN, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, speaking on behalf of several NGOs1, said that the Asian Forum warmly welcomed the Council’s decision to react immediately to the situation in Burma by holding a Special Session. It was regretted that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had not taken a firmer stand. The Asian Forum was concerned that the Council's current draft resolution failed to acknowledge the significance of the recent protests and the pervasive and systemic nature of the human rights abuses in Myanmar that had forced the demonstrators to take to the streets. A fact-finding mission was needed to thoroughly investigate the recent crackdown. The Council should push for an ongoing United Nations human rights presence in the country. The sacrifices of the Burmese citizens should not have been in vain.
ZIPPORAH SEIN, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said the Federation had for years expressed concern about the systematic human rights violations taking place in Burma. The Federation was traditionally opposed to economic sanctions, as they generally had a detrimental effect on populations. However, revenues from the economy benefited the junta in Burma which, under Burmese law, had the exclusive right of exploitation in those sectors. Foreign corporations investing in oil, gas and timber were obliged to trade with the State enterprise. The Human Rights Council should call on the Security Council to take concrete, targeted measures, including sanctions in the oil, timber and arms sectors. Burma was today’s generation’s South Africa and a similar firm stance was needed.
TIM PARRITT, of Amnesty International, said the security forces had conducted mass arrests and used tear gas, batons and warning shots to disperse peaceful protestors in Myanmar, including within monasteries. Severe curbs had been imposed on the flow of information. The Myanmar authorities should account for the whereabouts and well being of all detainees. The Human Rights Council should complement the Security Council’s efforts by resolute action to address ongoing human rights violations in the context of the crackdown against peaceful protests, should adopt a strong condemnation of the ongoing grave human rights violations in Myanmar, and should demand an immediate halt to the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations.
MICHAEL ANTHONY, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that the Asian Legal Resource Centre welcomed the holding of the Special Session. But it had to deliver tangible and constructive outcomes. It was the first clear chance in a generation to bring positive change to a country whose human rights record was among the very worst in Asia. The situation in Myanmar remained critical. The current crisis was worsening the economic situation. Monasteries had been raided and plundered. The whereabouts of hundreds of monks and civilians remained unknown. Strong action by the Council was vital. Killings needed to be immediately and effectively investigated.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said Burma had been subjected to an unelected military Government for 45 years. Its economy had worsened, so that the people struggled to survive while those in power grew rich. Lack of economic and social rights was matched by a lack of basic civil and political rights. Thousands had been killed in earlier demonstrations; the media was gagged; there was no rule of law, and the Government had failed to engage in genuine political dialogue with its opponents. No one knew how many were dead. The Council should do more than insist on the entry of the Special Rapporteur: it should make clear that non-cooperation would be met with consequences, and should prepare for a Commission of Inquiry with a mandate to look at all human rights abuses committed under the current regime.
NICHOLA HOWEN, of International Commission of Jurists, said the Government of Myanmar had carried out a brutal and almost total crackdown on peaceful opposition and protest. That presented a major challenge to the Council’s role to prevent, and end, human rights violations, and it required swift and resolute action, and effective follow-up. The Government, by suppressing peaceful protest, in blatant disregard of the human rights of its people, had shown once again that the so-called “democratization” process through the National Convention and other measures had been a veil to ensure the military Government stayed in power. The Council should condemn the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, including the killings of demonstrators, and should call for those responsible to be held criminally liable. The Government should immediately release those detained during recent peaceful protests and during raids, along with all other political prisoners and detainees, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
FELICITY HILL, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said that the League welcomed the current Special Session and condemned the use of force against non-violent protestors, as well as the total blackout imposed on telecommunications in Myanmar. Women had suffered in terrible ways. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi would be an important step. Neighbouring governments were called on to take all necessary steps to accelerate the process.
LEON SALTIEL, of United Nations Watch, said the evidence of smuggled reports on the situation in Myanmar was stark: many arrests and many deaths. The Council should send a message, loud and clear, saying to the people of Myanmar that it stood in awe of the heroic challenge to tyranny they had launched. It should say to the Government of Myanmar: justice will come. The Council had no foot soldiers, weapons or divisions, but faith in justice, freedom and human dignity was stronger than any steel. Let the Council adopt a firm resolution that would reaffirm this.
THAUNG HTUN, of Worldview International Foundation, said it was crucial that the international community, including the Human Rights Council, maintain a sustained focus on Burma in coming days, weeks, and months, as the situation there remained highly volatile. The number of dead, injured, detained and missing in the past two weeks could not be confirmed, and there was concern that the death toll would continue to increase. A full judicial investigation into the violations of human rights perpetrated against peaceful protesters should take place, and neither the Government of Burma nor the international community should let impunity prevail. The violence displayed by the authorities did not solve the underlying grievances which had led the people of Burma to go onto the streets in the first place. The situation in Burma was past critical: the Human Rights Council should undertake a sustained and persistent intervention in order to prevent Burma from sliding further into chaos.
Concluding Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in concluding remarks, said that of the 50 countries that had spoken, all had requested Myanmar to show restraint. But the Government had not shown restrain in the past, neither was it showing it in the present. The Special Envoy had just met with government leaders and opposition leaders. It was hoped that the Government would be able to show restraint as a result of those meetings. What had really been striking was that all regional groups had made the same sort of statements.
For four years, Mr. Pinheiro had not been able to go to Myanmar. It was very difficult for him to conduct his mandate in those conditions. The Council had to become involved in the success of the Special Envoy’s mission. What price would countries have to pay if they did not receive their Rapporteur? What should be done if countries refused to collaborate? Dialogue could be achieved though meetings and contacts. Countries of the region had an outstanding role to play in this process. It was also not understandable how people that had been beaten were being asked to show restraint, it was the Government’s role to show restraint.
1Joint statement: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development; People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy; Pax Romana; Peace Boat; Lawyers for a Democratic Society; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism; Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network; Ain O Salish Kendro (Ask) Law and Mediation Centre; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Earthrights International; International Women's Rights Action Watch; Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia; and Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education).
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