“There is no turning back in Myanmar,” says UN human rights expert after elections

GENEVA (16 November 2015) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee today welcomed the recent elections in Myanmar as “a new chapter in the country’s history” and reaffirmed her commitment to work with all parties to improve the human rights situation for all in Myanmar. “The people have expressed the will for change. There is no turning back now,” Ms. Lee stressed.

“In the new post-election environment, respect for human rights and democratic space must be ensured to protect and support those wishing to work with the new government in furthering democratic transition, national reconciliation and sustainable development and peace in Myanmar,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council with monitoring, reporting and advising on the situation of human rights in the country.

“It was truly heartening to see thousands flock to the polls on 8 November, many of whom were voting for the first time in their lives. The people have clearly expressed their wish for a free and democratic nation. These elections also demonstrate just how far the country has come in a few short years,” she said.

At the same time, the expert recalled the human rights concerns that had been highlighted in the run-up to voting. These include the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people, including from minority communities, the disqualification of many Muslim candidates, as well as continuing restrictions in the exercise of the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

“These concerns are symptomatic of broader human rights challenges that will require the urgent attention of the new government. Now is the perfect time to recognize the situation and to chart the way forward to address them,” Ms. Lee said.

The Special Rapporteur underlined that discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya in Rakhine State, as well as prevalent hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence against minority communities, should be addressed as a matter of priority.

Ms. Lee also noted the need for further reforms to fully guarantee the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to reform numerous laws that do not comply with international human rights standards.

“The arrests, convictions and harassment of civil society and journalists should immediately cease. And all remaining political prisoners must be released,” the independent expert urged.

“I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in the coming months to address these and other important human rights challenges. I reaffirm my willingness to work constructively and cooperatively with all in Myanmar to improve the human rights situation in the country,” the Special Rapporteur said.

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Ms Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the UN General Assembly (A/70/412): http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/412

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

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