End of Mission Statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

End of Mission Statement by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

 Seoul, 1 February 2018

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon. It is quite unusual for me to hold this press conference here, in a country not related to my mandate as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. However, these are unusual circumstances in the discharge of my mandate. For the first time since I was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council I have not been given access to the country I am responsible for reporting on.

The Government of Myanmar has taken the unfortunate decision to no longer cooperate with me, claiming that I have been unfair and biased. They took particular issue with my previous end-of-mission statement – following my last visit to Myanmar in July 2017. I would invite all of you to re-read that end-of-mission statement. You will note that I have highlighted the human rights situation of not just the Rohingya in respect of Rakhine State but of the Rakhine and Kaman communities too. I also highlighted the situation of the Karen as well as the Shan, and the increasing restrictions on democratic space, and continuing harassment and intimidation of human rights activists and journalists, including through frivolous criminal charges.

In that statement, I expressed my disappointment at seeing that the repressive practices applied by the previous military Government are still used by the NLD-led Government. Indeed, the latest decision to deny me access to the country is a return to the situation that my predecessors faced under the military government – reporting on the human rights situation in Myanmar from abroad.

Before I proceed further, let me take this opportunity to thank the governments of Bangladesh and Thailand as well as the UN entities in both countries for facilitating my visits. It has always been important for me to be able to engage directly with the people of Myanmar and not just with the authorities, as they are the ones whose voices need to be heard. In Bangladesh, I went to Dhaka but I spent most of my time around Cox’s Bazar where I met Rohingya refugees in a number of camps and settlements.

In Thailand, I met refugees, human rights activists, journalists and representatives of ethnic groups in Bangkok, Mae Sot and Chiang Mai. I sought to meet affected ethnic communities in what the Thai Government refer to as temporary shelters for displaced persons from Myanmar at the border between the two countries but I was denied access.

From my meetings and interaction in Bangladesh and Thailand, three recurrent themes struck me.

First: belonging – the people I met all gave me the distinct sense that they are dislocated from where they belong. Myanmar is their home; it is where their parents and grandparents were born; where they built their homes, and farmed their land. Yet they have been displaced – in many cases for years, even generations – left living in camps with little or no access to basic rights – the rights to livelihood, education, and health. Even for those who were treated as aliens when they were in Myanmar, it is still where they belong and where they long to return. Sadly, the conditions are such that they do not know what to expect if they return, or are forced to do so—many even fear for their lives.

Second: equality – a need for recognition and equal treatment. The majority of those I met are from ethnic minority groups of Myanmar. They demand not only equal rights as individuals but also recognition of parity for all ethnic groups. They are not asking for the benevolence of the government; they are insisting on equal treatment, collectively and as individuals.

Third: and this is the most distressing recurring theme – attacks against ethnic minorities are not a new phenomenon. The atrocities committed against the Rohingya in the aftermath of the 9 October 2016 and the 25 August 2017 attacks have been – as highlighted by the Karen National Union in its statement last year marking the two-year anniversary of the nationwide ceasefire agreement – repeatedly witnessed before, albeit not on the same scale of the recent attacks against the Rohingya. I was told repeatedly by the other ethnic groups I spoke to – be they Kachin, Karen, Karenni, or Shan – that they have suffered the same horrific violations at the hands of the Tatmadaw over several decades and – in the case of some groups – continuing today.

What the Myanmar government claims to be the conduct of military or security operations is actually an established pattern of domination, aggression and violations against ethnic groups. Recent reports of attacks against civilians; against homes and places of worship; forcible displacement and relocation; the burning of villages; land grabbing; sexual violence; arbitrary arrests and detention; torture and enforced disappearances; are acts that have been alleged against the military and security forces for generations. While reports from Rakhine State have rightly provoked international outrage; for many in Myanmar, they have elicited a tragic feeling of déjà vu.

In Thailand, representatives from different ethnic groups that I met expressed their concern that as the world’s attention is focused on the atrocities in Rakhine State, potential war crimes are being committed in Shan and Kachin State without so much as a murmur of disapproval from the international community.

Many of you may be unaware that over the Christmas period and into the New Year, clashes between the Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Groups occurred in both Shan and Kachin states, resulting in the deaths of civilians and driving thousands of people from their homes. In fact, attacks continued last week, with airstrikes carried out by the Tatmadaw reportedly killing four civilians. The fallout from these attacks has been truly grave. I spoke to a Kachin woman who told me that her relatives are among a civilian group believed to number in the thousands that are taking cover from these attacks in a forest in an isolated area of Tanai township that is reachable only by water. Cut off from the outside world by the fighting, her sister-in-law gave birth to a little baby girl in the forest just a few days ago, where they both remain. I do hope that both the mother and the baby, as well as the rest of the civilian group, are holding up as well as they can in these grave circumstances.

Violence on such a scale has lasting effects. During my visit to Thailand, I spoke with people who fled similar acts years, even decades, ago. They have lived since in so-called “temporary” shelters, unable to enjoy their basic human rights, where they are once again faced with a perilous situation. Karen refugees told me that the humanitarian assistance they depend on is declining, while Shan refugees informed me that their aid has been cut by foreign donors entirely. This is occurring in a context where people are being encouraged to return home despite feeling that it is premature or unsafe to do so. They are left to choose between empty stomachs on the Thai side of the border and a return to a precarious peace on the Myanmar side and the risk of being made refugees all over again.

On the topic of peace, January has come and gone without the convening of the 21st Century Panglong Conference. During my mission, I was told by people of different ethnicities that the peace process is floundering largely because of the failure of the military and the government to earn the trust of ethnic groups, and what they see as a lack of a genuine commitment to peace on the part of officials. The Tatmadaw has reportedly prevented public consultations taking place between ethnic armed groups and their constituents while the government appears to be concerned only with reconciling with the military, rather than with the ethnic groups.

Most disturbingly, peace agreements that are already in place are failing to prevent violence, most notably in the case of the recent deaths of one civilian and three soldiers of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), who were shot dead by Tatmadaw on 20 December. While the Tatmadaw claims that the four were killed in a shootout with the KNPP, the KNPP say they were summarily executed. The allegation must be investigated by an independent and impartial body; if proven true, it would amount to a violation of international humanitarian law.

Set against this background of violence in the ethnic areas of Myanmar, is a continuing erosion of democratic space. The civilian government has failed to usher in a new era of openness and transparency and is instead persisting with repressive practices of the past. I was deeply saddened to learn that nine Rakhine Buddhist demonstrators were killed in Mrauk U last month and by reports that other injured demonstrators were arrested in hospital where they were handcuffed to their beds. This is truly shameful and cruel. While preparing this statement, I learned that the Mrauk U administrator was killed in an apparent revenge attack – a grisly reminder that violence begets violence.

Other tactics are also being employed to curtail freedom of peaceful assembly. I was surprised to learn that at least 40 university students have been expelled in the last week for taking part in protests calling for an increase in the education budget. Given the NLD’s connections with generations of student activists, I would have thought that it would fiercely protect the rights of students to speak out, rather than silence their voices.

Journalists are faring no better. I have been informed that since the arrests of Irrawaddy and DVB journalists who attended a drug burning ceremony in Shan State last year, journalists are fearful of travelling to ethnic areas to report on events in non-government controlled regions in ways that may provoke the ire of the government. Since the conviction of two Kachin Baptist pastors in October 2017, people are also too afraid to speak to the media. The two had allegedly helped journalists report on a potential war crime committed by the Tatmadaw in November 2016 in Kachin State. The result is a culture of fear, silence and self-censorship, and a situation where the public only get to hear the government or military version of events.

Despite these obstacles, some journalists have courageously continued their work. In December last year, Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were arrested having travelled to Rakhine to investigate a massacre by the Tatmadaw. Of all the deaths that occurred in Rakhine after 25 August, the military has only accepted responsibility for ten – the ten in Inn Din village – and that may be due to the work of these two brave men. Their fearless work highlights the absolutely invaluable role of independent journalism. I remain deeply perplexed and concerned that they remain in detention despite the military having admitted responsibility for the killings at Inn Din. To say that their prosecution is under “the rule of law” is no excuse for spurious charges; they should be released immediately and the charges against them must be dropped. As I and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression have stated previously, “journalism is not a crime”.

This brings me to my visit in Bangladesh. During this visit to Cox’s Bazar, I saw a completely different landscape than in my first visit in February 2017. No amount of videos, photographs or news footage can prepare you for witnessing in-person the immensity of the camps and gravity of the loss and suffering experienced by the Rohingya population. I was particularly shocked when I looked over the Kutapalong-Balukhali settlement expansion where nearly 600,000 people live, and saw the densely packed tarpaulin and bamboo shelters built by incredibly resilient refugees that stretch beyond the horizon. The number of those who fled from Rakhine State since 25 August 2017 currently stands at 688,000, and still there are reports of new arrivals.

In each of the camps and settlements I visited were Rohingya who came from various areas of northern Rakhine. While I listened to each unique and horrific experience, the recurring themes I mentioned earlier – the sense that people have been wrenched from where they belong; their demands for equality; and that tragic sense of déjà vu, that this violence was not new – struck me again and again.

I met over 100 refugees during my time in Bangladesh. I listened as Imams stoically struggled through accounts of their villages being attacked until they broke down when revealing that their children were killed – either burned alive or shot by Myanmar security forces. I spoke to someone who is the only surviving member of his family following the widely documented massacre at Tula Toli. Through anguish and tears he told me how the military came and called him and his family out of their homes, and then gathered and surrounded them. “[They] started shooting, so we huddled closer together—women were taken to rooms in houses, raped and killed. Then they lit everything on fire – my baby son was thrown into the fire. My wife was killed.”  I listened to a grandmother who fled with her daughter-in-law and young children. Her 3-year-old grandson witnessed the slaughtering of his father. The little boy described seeing what no child should ever have to witness – “they chopped my father”.

The Government of Bangladesh has continued to be generous in their response in all sectors despite having limited resources themselves. Particularly I want to draw attention to the people of Bangladesh – the communities of Cox’s Bazar – they have shown the world the definition of humanity as they continue, despite their own hardships, to host and exhibit compassion for the Rohingya people.

During my visit, it became clear to me that the Rohingya population will not be moving from Bangladesh any time soon, and this led to serious concerns about what will happen to them when the rains start in just two months. A day of rain could trigger landslides and flood lowlands decimating shelters, and could lead to casualties. International partners stand ready to support the Government of Bangladesh in preparing and responding to the cyclone and monsoon season. But failure to act decisively now will result in a disaster within a disaster for the Rohingya: adequate land and resources must be made available to mitigate the worst.

Talks of repatriation at this time are clearly premature. While the government of Bangladesh made it clear to me that no refugees would be forced back to Myanmar, I remain concerned about whether any safeguards exist to ensure that any returns are truly voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable. I saw great anxiety and fear when I spoke to refugees about the prospect of returning to Myanmar. One mother said to me, “Our beautiful children were slaughtered, how can we go back?” Refugees have been entirely excluded from conversations about their fate, and going forward they must be involved in a meaningful way. The majority of Rohingya I spoke to clearly state they want to go home but only if they can return to a home where they are recognized as Rohingya, have rights as citizens, and can live in their place of origin without fear of being attacked.

Creating a conducive environment depends on the Myanmar government, and my discussions with different stakeholders, together with information I have received about the current situation in Rakhine, lead me to doubt that they are sincere and genuinely engaged in doing so. This is shown by their continued refusal to engage with UNHCR, including giving full access to northern Rakhine. And further, their request to extradite 1,311 named Rohingyas whom they allege are terrorists. The Myanmar authorities have even gone so far as to publish this list online and in state newspapers with pictures of those named – in clear violation of their rights to due process – contributing further to the climate of fear. Myanmar is keeping the world in the dark, and the international community appears unwilling to challenge the government of Myanmar under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

I note the statement recently made by the Chair of the Advisory Board to the Committee for Implementation of the Recommendations on Rakhine State mentioning that the villagers His Excellency had met did not seem to have any fear. It is unfortunate that HE Prof. Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai was unavailable to meet with me in Bangkok. If we had met I would have asked if he and the Board intend to make a visit to Cox’s Bazar to ask the refugees there if they have any fear of returning; whether they trust the very institution that they say had perpetrated violence against them to provide security if they return;  and what is the Board’s view of the provision in the Bangladesh-Myanmar repatriation agreement, which imposes on returnees National Verification Cards – contrary to the voluntary nature of the citizenship verification process called for by the Kofi Annan Commission.

Throughout my mission, in Bangladesh and in Thailand, I was heartened by the words of encouragement I have received. People from Myanmar of different backgrounds and ethnicities – be they refugees, journalists, human rights defenders or political activists – expressed their regret and disappointment that I have been denied entry to Myanmar and the space to continue what they see as crucial work in the promotion and protection of human rights in their country. I hope that I will gain access again soon; I remain ready to work with the government and other stakeholders to promote and protect the human rights of all people of Myanmar.

After two weeks hearing accounts of suffering that has spanned a period of decades, it is difficult to sum up all my thoughts in this statement. In concluding, I would like to return to the three themes that recurred throughout my time in Bangladesh and Thailand:

People from Myanmar who are in Bangladesh and Thailand must be able to return home; to where they belong. For returns to be ever realized in a way that is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable they must be treated as equals – citizens of Myanmar with all the rights that the status affords. The situation is clearly not safe for Rohingya to return now but if the process is delayed indefinitely and the facts on the ground in Rakhine State change irreversibly, there may be nothing for them to return to. The international community needs to pressure Myanmar to create conditions for return before it is too late. This must be done in a principled way that prioritizes the need for these people to be recognized as Rohingya and as citizens of Myanmar.

Without equality, Myanmar will never be free from violence and the country’s tragic déjà vu will reverberate through the future as it has through the past. The cycle of violence must end, and Myanmar must be supported in implementing the profound and meaningful reforms that are so urgently needed. The democratic government can take the first step to a more hopeful future for Myanmar by making a break with the repressive practices of the past.

Thank you for your attention.


Annex – List of Meetings Held & Areas Visited

 BANGLADESH (Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar)

Government Officials

  • Foreign Secretary, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-Generals for United Nations, International Organizations and South-East Asia
  • Home Secretary
  • Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner
  • Cox’s Bazar Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner
  • Border Guard of Bangladesh, Brigadier General
  • Army of Bangladesh, Major General


  • United Nations Resident Coordinator, United Nations Country Team, and Strategic Executive Group in Dhaka
  • UN, INGOs & NGOs providing support and assistance in Cox’s Bazar
  • Representatives of the diplomatic community

Camps & Settlements visited

  • Domdomia village (refugees living among host community)
  • Nayapara refugee camp
  • Uchiprang refugee camp
  • Lambashia area
  • Kutapalong-Balukhali Expansion Site

(refugee camp/existing & makeshift settlements)

THAILAND (Bangkok, Mae Sot, Chiang Mai)

  • Government Officials
  • United Nations representatives
  • Representatives of ethnic-based groups
  • Representatives of non-governmental organizations and other actors working on Myanmar human rights issues including rights of refugees and IDPs; freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; women’s rights and gender issues; environmental issues; business and human rights; land rights and environment; health; human rights issues related to conflict and the peace process, and humanitarian situation


Statement on United Nations participation in Myanmar government meetings on health services on 21 January in Sittwe

Statement on United Nations participation in Myanmar government meetings on health services on 21 January in Sittwe

24th January 2018

Several UN agencies were invited to join internal meetings between the Union and State governments in Sittwe on Sunday, 21 January. The discussions covered the extension of Sittwe hospital; the provision of health services on the outskirts of Thet Kel Pyin IDP camp which is designated for closure as part of the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations; and the provision of health care for returnees, especially pregnant women, mothers and children.

Throughout these discussions, the UN stressed the need for refugees to be consulted and properly informed about what health services they may receive. The UN also emphasized that the return must be voluntary, safe, dignified and to the areas of origin.

The UN in Myanmar remains prepared to work with the government towards finding a long-term solution to this crisis in the interest of all communities in Rakhine State.

UN Myanmar – Statement on Situation in Mrauk-U

The United Nations in Myanmar is following with concern the reports of violent clashes between the police and protesters in Mrauk U in Rakhine State. We deplore the loss of life and injuries that have been reported. We urge respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and call for the security forces and demonstrators to act with restraint and to avoid further violence. We urge authorities to investigate any disproportionate use of force or other illegal actions that may have occurred in relation to this incident.

ရခိုင္ျပည္နယ္ ေျမာက္ဦးၿမိဳ႔တြင္ ဆႏၵျပသူမ်ားႏွင့္ ရဲတပ္ဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ားအၾကား ျဖစ္ပြားသည့္ အၾကမ္းဖက္ ထိေတြ႔မႈသတင္းမ်ားအေပၚတြင္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရွိ ကုလသမဂၢအဖြဲ႔အစည္းမွ စိုးရိမ္စြာျဖင့္ ေစာင့္ၾကည့္ ေလ့လာလွ်က္ရွိပါသည္။ မိမိတို႔အေနျဖင့္ ၾကားသိရသည့္ အသက္ဆုံး႐ႈံးမႈႏွင့္ ထိခိုက္ဒဏ္ရာရရွိမႈမ်ားအတြက္ ၀မ္းနည္းရပါသည္။ လြတ္လပ္စြာေျပာဆိုေရးသားခြင့္ႏွင့္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းစြာစုေ၀းခြင့္ တို႔အား ေလးစားၾကရန္ မိမိတို႔အေနျဖင့္ တိုက္တြန္းၿပီး၊ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈမ်ား ဆက္လက္မျဖစ္ပြားေစရန္အတြက္ လုံျခဳံေရးတပ္ဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ား ႏွင့္ ဆႏၵျပသူမ်ား အေနျဖင့္ သတိျပဳထိန္းသိမ္းေဆာင္ရြက္သြားရန္ ေတာင္းဆိုအပ္ပါသည္။ ဤျဖစ္စဥ္ႏွင့္ပတ္သက္ျပီးမတန္တရာ အင္အားသုံးေျဖရွင္း ျခင္း သို႔မဟုတ္ အျခားတရားမ၀င္ လုပ္ေဆာင္မႈမ်ား ရွိေနပါက စုံစမ္းပါရန္ တာ၀န္ရွိသူမ်ားအား တိုက္တြန္းအပ္ပါသည္။

ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ် မြောက်ဦးမြို့တွင် ဆန္ဒပြသူများနှင့် ရဲတပ်ဖွဲ့ဝင်များအကြား ဖြစ်ပွားသည့် အကြမ်းဖက် ထိတွေ့မှုသတင်းများအပေါ်တွင် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံရှိ ကုလသမဂ္ဂအဖွဲ့အစည်းမှ စိုးရိမ်စွာဖြင့် စောင့်ကြည့် လေ့လာလျှက်ရှိပါသည်။ မိမိတို့အနေဖြင့် ကြားသိရသည့် အသက်ဆုံးရှုံးမှုနှင့် ထိခိုက်ဒဏ်ရာရရှိမှုများအတွက် ၀မ်းနည်းရပါသည်။ လွတ်လပ်စွာပြောဆိုရေးသားခွင့်နှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းစွာစုဝေးခွင့် တို့အား လေးစားကြရန် မိမိတို့အနေဖြင့် တိုက်တွန်းပြီး၊ အကြမ်းဖက်မှုများ ဆက်လက်မဖြစ်ပွားစေရန်အတွက် လုံခြုံရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ဝင်များ နှင့် ဆန္ဒပြသူများ အနေဖြင့် သတိပြုထိန်းသိမ်းဆောင်ရွက်သွားရန် တောင်းဆိုအပ်ပါသည်။ ဤဖြစ်စဉ်နှင့်ပတ်သက်ပြီးမတန်တရာ အင်အားသုံးဖြေရှင်း ခြင်း သို့မဟုတ် အခြားတရားမဝင် လုပ်ဆောင်မှုများ ရှိနေပါက စုံစမ်းပါရန် တာဝန်ရှိသူများအား တိုက်တွန်းအပ်ပါသည်။

Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for international criminal investigation of perpetrators of violence against Rohingya

Myanmar: UN human rights chief calls for international criminal investigation of perpetrators of violence against Rohingya   

GENEVA (5 December 2017) –The UN human rights chief on Tuesday condemned “widespread, systematic and shockingly brutal” attacks against the Rohingya, as well as decades of discrimination and persecution.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the current situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State “to take the appropriate action to stop this madness now”. He asked: “How much do people have to endure before their suffering is acknowledged and their identity and rights are recognised, by their government and by the world?”

The High Commissioner urged the Council to consider making a recommendation to the UN General Assembly that it establish a new impartial and independent mechanism, complementary to the work of the Fact-Finding Mission into the latest wave of violence and abuses, to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible.

He said that given the decades of statelessness imposed on the Rohingya, policies of dehumanising discrimination and segregation, and the horrific violence and abuse, along with the forced displacement and systematic destruction of villages, homes, property and livelihoods – “can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?”

“Ultimately, this is a legal determination only a competent court can make,” he told the Council. “But the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification.”

By 2 December, an estimated 626,000 refugees – or more than half the estimated number of Rohingya living in Rakhine State – had fled to Bangladesh since October 2016, and particularly since August 2017. The Myanmar Government has said its latest campaign in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by insurgents.

Zeid said his Office had sent three teams to Bangladesh this year to monitor the situation and interview refugees. He said witnesses reported acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.

Zeid said he had reported to both the Human Rights Council and the Security Council about the persistent allegations of serious human rights violations by security forces. Yet, he added, prosecutions for alleged acts of violence against them, including sexual violence – whether committed by security forces or civilians – appeared to be extremely rare.

“Refusal by international as well as local actors to even name the Rohingyas as Rohingyas – to recognise them as a community and respect their right to self-identification – is yet another humiliation, and it creates a shameful paradox: they are denied a name, while being targeted for being who they are,” he added.

Zeid told the Special Session of the Council that it appeared very probable that by continuing to dehumanise the Rohingya the state authorities would fuel even wider levels of violence in the future. “We cannot afford to hear that historical and tragic refrain, one more time, that no one knew it would turn out to be like this — what a lie that would be,” he said.

The High Commissioner warned against the premature repatriation of any refugees in the absence of sustained human rights monitoring on the ground and without first addressing the root causes of the crisis. He cited a similar situation in the 1990s when refugees who fled Rakhine State started to return but were again forced to take flight.

“The world cannot countenance a hasty window-dressing of these shocking atrocities, bundling people back to conditions of severe discrimination and latent violence which seem certain to lead in the future to further suffering, and more movements of people,” the UN human rights chief said.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org) or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 9383  / jlaurence@ohchr.org

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Myanmar: UN experts request exceptional report on situation of women and girls from northern Rakhine State

Myanmar: UN experts request exceptional report on situation of women and girls from northern Rakhine State

GENEVA (28 November 2017) – A group of UN experts tasked with monitoring a global treaty on discrimination against women has requested an exceptional report from the Government of Myanmar on the situation of Rohingya women and girls from northern Rakhine State.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) made the decision at a regular meeting in Geneva last week, setting a six-month deadline for the submission of the report to the UN Secretary General. The request was sent to the Government of Myanmar on Monday, meaning the report should be submitted by 28 May 2018. It is only the fourth time an exceptional report has been requested by the Committee since holding its first session in October 1982.

The Committee, comprised of 23 independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, called on the Government to provide information on a range of issues surrounding alleged instances of violence against women and girls in northern Rakhine State in recent months.

As a party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Myanmar is obliged to report to the Committee on its implementation of the treaty.

The Committee requested information concerning cases of sexual violence, including rape, against Rohingya women and girls by State security forces; and to provide details on the number of women and girls who have been killed or have died due to other non-natural causes during the latest outbreak of violence.

It also requested information on investigations, arrests, prosecutions, convictions and sentences or disciplinary measures imposed on perpetrators, including members of the armed forces, found guilty of such crimes.

The Committee also requested information on:

  • the designation of the battalions that have undertaken the clearance operations in Northern Rakhine State since 25 August 2017 and under whose command;
  • the findings of the final report of the Tatmadaw investigation team led by Lieutenant-General Aye Whin concerning the conduct of the armed forces during the security clearance operations;
  • whether instructions have been or are being issued to all branches of the State security forces that torture, gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, expulsions and other human rights violations are prohibited and that those responsible will be prosecuted and punished;
  • the gender-specific measures taken by the State party to rehabilitate and compensate Rohingya women and girls who are victims/survivors of such violence;
  • the remedies available to Rohingya women and girls to claim violations of their rights;
  • the number of Rohingya women and girls currently detained by State security forces;
  • the number of Rohingya women and girls who have died during childbirth;
  • the number of clinics providing obstetric services and the ratio of doctors and midwives to the Rohingya population; and
  • the number of Rohingya families displaced by the violence, disaggregated by sex, and measures taken by the Government to ensure their voluntary and safe return, economic reintegration and compensation for loss of land or property.

The report of the Government shall be made public, and will be reviewed by CEDAW. For further information, please contact Mr. Anganile Mwenifumbo (amwenifumbo@ohchr.org /+41229179337)


CEDAW is composed of 23 independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented. However, pursuant to article 18, paragraph 1(b), of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Convention) and decision 21/I dated 17 November 2018 that was adopted during the sixty-eighth session, CEDAW decided to request the Government of Myanmar to submit an exceptional report, within six months, on the ongoing situation of Rohingya women and girls from Northern Rakhine State. The exceptional report, which will be due on 28 May 2018, should be submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations as required by article 18, paragraph 1 of the Convention.


For media requests please contact:

Jeremy Laurence,  +41(0) 22 9179383/jlaurence@ohchr.org

Secretary-General’s remarks at the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit

Secretary-General’s remarks at the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit
[As delivered]

Manila, 13 November 2017

Mr Chairman,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government of ASEAN,

Secretary-General of ASEAN,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to join you for the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit.

I congratulate the Government and people of the Republic of the Philippines for your success in chairing ASEAN in its 50th anniversary year.

And I congratulate all the Governments and peoples of ASEAN on the achievement of this milestone.

ASEAN was founded at a time of great turmoil in Southeast Asia.

Five decades on, ASEAN is an indispensable partner in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia and beyond.


The five men who signed the founding ASEAN declaration were tow Muslims from Indonesia and Malaysia, a Christian from the Philippines, a Hindu from Singapore and a Buddhist from Thailand.

This is just one sign of remarkable diversity at the heart of your region, as we meet at a time of proliferating divisions and crises.


Globalisation is delivering new opportunities – but increasing economic and social inequalities, heightening citizens’ anxieties and putting pressure on social cohesion.

Climate change is exacerbating severe weather events like hurricanes and storms.

I commend ASEAN’s leadership at the national and regional level for your decisive action to strengthen resilience and reduce the risk posed by climate change and other natural disasters.

I will stress the importance of collective action at the global and regional levels at the COP23 in Germany later this week.


As I told the General Assembly of the UN in September, I am extremely concerned by the threat of global terrorism and violent extremism, including in this region.

The United Nations is prioritizing support for national and regional efforts to counter terrorism and to prevent violent extremism, including the establishment of a dedicated UN Office of Counter-Terrorism. We welcome the adoption of the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism, and its recognition of the importance of comprehensive approaches and preventive action.

The United Nations stands ready to provide technical support to ASEAN and its member countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and to combat transnational crime, including drug trafficking and people trafficking, through policies able to protect their citizens with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights.


The international community must raise the level of its response to all these complex threats. Multilateralism and regional cooperation will be critical to a peaceful and prosperous future.

ASEAN and its Member States have made determined efforts to end conflict throughout the last five decades.

You also have demonstrated your commitment to global peace and security through your participation in UN peace operations.

Last month, I had the opportunity to honour the memory of four Cambodian soldiers killed while helping to bring peace and security to the people of the Central African Republic.

I commend the bravery and sacrifice of some 4,500 military personnel, police and civilians from eight ASEAN countries who are serving in United Nations missions around the world.

Here in the Philippines, I commend your efforts towards peace over many years, with the support of other ASEAN countries and civil society.

And I am heartened by the recent liberation of Marawi from ISIS.

Continued trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia will strengthen regional peace and security.


I cannot hide my deep concern with the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. It is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region, and radicalization.

The United Nations welcomes constructive approaches by ASEAN, including the provision of humanitarian aid to Northern Rakhine.

Since the beginning of the crisis, and beyond the end of violence, I have called for unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities; and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled, to their places of origin.

Addressing the underlying issues by implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine will also be critical to reverse this tragedy.


Sustainable and inclusive development is the best way to prevent both conflict and violent extremism. That is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our blueprint for a safe and prosperous future on a healthy planet, and central to the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Economic growth in this region has lifted millions out of extreme poverty in the past five decades.

This region was one of the best performers on the Millennium Development Goals.

As it powers its way to becoming the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050, we look forward to including millions more in the shared benefits of prosperity.

In line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, the principles of democratic governance, rule of law and respect for human rights, the United Nations also stands ready to cooperate with you in strengthening the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.


Strengthened partnerships with regional organisations, including ASEAN, are a priority for me, and a critical pillar of my proposals to reform the United Nations.

I invite all ASEAN Member Countries to redouble their commitment to strengthening the ASEAN-UN partnership.

I am deeply committed to work with all of you for a quantum leap to be possible in the strategic cooperation between ASEAN and the UN.

I look forward to an open exchange of views.

Thank you very much.

Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar

The Secretary-General met today with H. E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The Secretary-General and the State Counsellor discussed the situation in Rakhine State. The Secretary-General highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential.

He also stressed the importance of implementing the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.

Manila, 14 November 2017

UN experts urge ASEAN summit to address regional human rights concerns

UN experts urge ASEAN summit to address regional human rights concerns

GENEVA (10 November 2017) – Four UN human rights experts* have called on Member States to address pressing human rights issues during the 31st ASEAN Summit being held from 10-14 November in the Philippines.

Recognising the important work of the many active civil society organisations across the region, the experts expressed concern about “a worrying deterioration in the environment in which they operate.”

“Human rights defenders, social activists, lawyers, journalists, independent media and even parliamentarians trying to speak out and protect the rights of others, increasingly face a multitude of risks ranging from judicial harassment and prosecution to threats, disappearances and killings,” said the experts.

They observed rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases.

The experts called on the 10 ASEAN Member States to amend or repeal existing legislation and to reconsider draft laws that are being or could be applied to criminalize or restrict the vital work of civil society.

“We condemn the public vilification, harassment, arrests and killings of members of civil society, and call on Member States to rigorously uphold their duty to ensure the freedom and protection of those exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” the experts said.

“Independent media, members of civil society and human rights defenders should be viewed as partners and as an essential element of democracy.”

The experts highlighted that these rights also apply online, expressing dismay at the increasing harassment and prosecutions of bloggers, journalists and social media users.

They also urged Member States to do more to protect all vulnerable groups, reminding governments that inclusion and meaningful participation are elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Welcoming the efforts of the ASEAN human rights mechanisms to promote human rights in the region, the experts highlighted that the 50th anniversary of ASEAN provides an important opportunity for Member States to publicly renew their individual and collective commitments to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration and international human rights conventions, both in practice and spirit.

They encouraged the governments to see human rights monitoring and reporting, not as a threat, but as a positive tool that can help them comply with these commitments.

“This summit should be seen as an opportunity to make real progress on these issues and to show the world that the Member States of ASEAN are fully committed to securing the human rights of all in the region,” the group said.


(*) The UN experts: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;  Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

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.

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:
Ms Rhiannon Painter (rpainter@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 9143 or write to eje@ohchr.org

Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today. #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org

UN Assistant High Commissioner calls for humanitarian access and safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees during Myanmar visit


UNHCR Press Release

UN Assistant High Commissioner calls for humanitarian access and safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees during Myanmar visit

YANGON, Myanmar, 2 November, 2017 – The United Nations Assistant High Commissioner (Protection), Mr. Volker Türk, concluded on Wednesday a two-day visit to Myanmar, during which he called for unrestricted humanitarian access for communities in need, and for the voluntary return of refugees in safety and dignity.

Türk travelled to the capital Naypyitaw where he met with Myanmar’s Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint Swe, National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun, Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. Win Myat Aye, and Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe.

During his meetings, the Assistant High Commissioner urged the government to ensure a safe environment and the protection of all communities in Rakhine State. He also called for unrestricted access so that humanitarian actors can provide life-saving aid and build confidence among communities in need. Türk reiterated the right of return of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from Rakhine State to Bangladesh; and he appealed for their safe, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation to their places of origin.

The Assistant High Commissioner also emphasized the importance of the robust engagement of development stakeholders to invest in community-based programmes in Rakhine State that create conditions that enable sustainable reintegration of refugees.

Türk welcomed the government’s initiative to hold a joint workshop with UNHCR on the international standards guiding voluntary repatriation on October 31. The Assistant High Commissioner reaffirmed that UNHCR stands ready to support the government and said he hoped that the workshop would be a step toward involving the UN Refugee Agency in the government’s plans for voluntary repatriation.

Türk further welcomed the renewed commitment of the government to rapidly implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission of Rakhine State and highlighted that they provide an important roadmap for the way forward.

The Assistant High Commissioner for Protection’s regional visit will continue in Thailand and conclude in Bangladesh early next week.


Online press release: http://www.unhcr.org/59f9fafd4.html


For more information, please contact:

In Yangon, Myanmar, Paul Vrieze, vrieze@unhcr.org, mobile: +95 9 448 034 427

In Bangladesh, Vivian Tan, tanv@unhcr.org, mobile: +88 0 17 0836 7884


Statement on the appointment of Knut Ostby of Norway as ad interim UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar


Statement on the appointment of Knut Ostby of Norway as ad interim

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar

 31 October 2017

The United Nations has appointed Knut Ostby of Norway as ad interim United Nations Resident Coordinator in Myanmar where he will serve also on an ad interim basis as the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme. Mr. Ostby will serve in these functions from 1 November until further notice.

Mr. Ostby succeeds Renata Lok-Dessallien who will take on another assignment at headquarters after completing her tenure in Myanmar.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Ms. Lok-Dessallien’s important contribution and service to United Nation’s work in Myanmar.

Mr. Ostby has extensive experience in development, human rights and humanitarian affairs from 17 countries and has served as United Nations Resident Coordinator for more than 11 years including in Timor Leste since 2013.  Prior to that, he was United Nations Resident Coordinator in Fiji and nine other Pacific countries, and before that in Iran.

During his career with the United Nations, Mr. Ostby has held leadership positions in Afghanistan, Malaysia, Maldives, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and at headquarters in Copenhagen and New York.

Mr. Ostby holds a Master of Science degree from the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim, and has conducted studies in development theory with the University of Uppsala in Sweden.  He is married and has three children.


Media contact: Stanislav Saling, the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, stanislav.saling@one.un.org or +95-942 651 9871