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.

ENDS

(*) 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

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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.

END

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

Message from His Excellency U Htin Kyaw, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, to the United Nations on its 72nd Anniversary

Message from His Excellency U Htin Kyaw, President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, to the United Nations on its 72nd Anniversary

(Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 24 October 2017)

 

Global New Light of Myanmar

 

On this auspicious occasion of the 72nd Anniversary of the United Nations Day, I have the great pleasure to congratulate the United Nations and offer our best wishes for the Organization’s continued success in striving towards world’s peace and equitable and sustainable development for all.

The United Nations was established in 1945 with the aims of maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, and creating a free, just and democratic society. The Organization should always be mindful of these noble aims and focus on cooperation and consultations in resolving the world’s conflicts in a peaceful way.

The world today is significantly different from the time when the United Nations was founded over seven decades ago. However, the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter remain valid today serving as a useful guidelines for all member States in promoting world peace and stability. Yet, the United Nations is in need of speedy reform to reflect the changing circumstances and to make the Organization more effective.

Ever since becoming a member state of the UN, Myanmar places cooperation with the United Nations as a corner stone of its foreign policy. The Government of Myanmar takes this opportunity to reaffirm its faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. Myanmar will continue to work together with United Nations in its national endeavors, especially for uplifting of socio-economic development of its people.

The theme of 72nd Anniversary of the United Nations Day is “Focusing on people – Striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”. The theme gives us a further impetus to our efforts for ongoing processes of peace and reconciliation, democratization, promotion and protection of human rights and economic development. I hope that in accordance with the theme, the United Nations will be able to enhance its support to the peoples of the Member States in their nation building and development efforts in line with the host country’s priorities, adhering to their basic principles and code of ethics.

As an expression of its commitment to sustainable conservation of environment, Myanmar has recently deposited with the UN Secretary-General the Instrument of Ratification of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Instrument of Accession to the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. Moreover, Myanmar has also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on 6 October 2017 reflecting its strong commitment to promoting and protecting of human rights and respecting fundamental rights of an individual.

Myanmar is working together with UN agencies, International Organizations, Non-governmental Organizations, and individuals for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

As a fledgling democracy, Myanmar is still confronting with so many challenges. But, the government is resolute to make every efforts to successfully overcome those challenges with the active participation of our peoples and the continued support of its friends around the world.

We welcome the celebration of the 72nd Anniversary of the United Nations Day with our earnest hope for the Organization to help create a peaceful, harmonious, just and prosperous world for all.

Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Ivan Simonovic, United Nations Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, on the situation in northern Rakhine state, Myanmar

Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Ivan Simonovic, United Nations Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, on the situation in northern Rakhine state, Myanmar

The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the Special Adviser of the Responsibility to Protect, Ivan Simonovic, call on the Government of Myanmar to take immediate action to stop and address the commission of atrocity crimes that are reportedly taking place in northern Rakhine state.

The Special Advisers have been following the situation in northern Rakhine state for several years and have warned that there was a risk that atrocity crimes could be committed there. Risk factors they identified included very deeply rooted and long-standing discriminatory practices and policies against the Rohingya Muslims population, a failure to stop acts of violence against that group and a failure to put in place conditions that would support the peaceful coexistence of different communities in Rakhine state. “Despite warnings issued by us and by many other officials, the Government of Myanmar has failed to meet its obligations under international law and primary responsibility to protect the Rohingya population from atrocity crimes. The international community has equally failed its responsibilities in this regard”, the Special Advisers stated.

The Special Advisers welcomed recommendations presented by United Nations Security Council Members during an Arria formula meeting on Myanmar on 13 October and urged for an immediate end to the violence in northern Rakhine state, full humanitarian access and the safe, dignified and voluntary return of refugees to their homes. In addition, they highlighted the importance of allowing the Human Rights Council independent international fact-finding mission to access northern Rakhine state to ascertain the veracity of the facts

A recent report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights describes vicious, well-organised, coordinated and systematic attacks by Myanmar security forces, often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals against thousands of civilian Rohingya, committed with an intent to drive that population out of Myanmar and prevent them from returning to their homes. These acts are reported to be in response to attacks by militants on 25 August 2017 against Myanmar police posts and a regimental headquarters. United Nations sources indicate that more than 530,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since then. A few thousand Buddhist and Hindu civilians are also reported to be displaced while fleeing attacks by militants. “Once again, our failure to stop atrocity crimes makes us complicit. When will we live up to our countless promises of ‘never again’?” the Special Advisers asked. They emphasized that those implicated in the commission of atrocity crimes must be held accountable, whatever their status.

During the discussions at the Security Council, the Special Advisers were encouraged by what seems to be a consensus among the membership of the Council and the Government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, headed by Kofi Annan. They acknowledged as positive the appointment by the Myanmar Government of a ministerial committee to follow up on these recommendations. However, the Special Advisers noted, “True commitment will come with implementation. Any further delay in implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission, including on issues of citizenship, will mean further violence and destabilization for the region.” They also urged the international community to support the Myanmar Government in this regard.

Finally, the Special Advisors urged the Government of Myanmar to work towards a national identity in which all populations of Myanmar, including those that identify themselves as Rohingya, feel part of. “Peace and development in Myanmar will only come with unity and peaceful coexistence of all populations”, the Special Advisers concluded.

Note: the expression “atrocity crimes” is used by the Special Advisers to refer to three crimes under international law: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

For media queries please contact:

Claudia Diaz, Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect

http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/
Phone: +1 917-367-2061; Email: diazc@un.org

Visit of the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs to Myanmar

Note to correspondents:

Visit of the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs to Myanmar

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited Myanmar from October 13 to October 17 at the invitation of the Government.  In Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, he met with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, among other officials, as well as with representatives of Myanmar’s civil society. He attended the ceremony commemorating the signing of Myanmar’s historic National Ceasefire Agreement and met with the signatory ethnic organizations.  He also met with the resident diplomatic community and representatives of international NGOs.

Most of Under-Secretary-General Feltman’s discussions focused on the situation in Rakhine State and the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the aftermath of the 25 August attacks on security positions and subsequent military action. He reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call that humanitarian actors be given full and unhindered access to northern Rakhine State and that refugees be allowed voluntary, safe and dignified return to their place of origin.

Acknowledging the announcements by the Government of Myanmar, including the State Counsellor’s address to the nation on 12 October, regarding the establishment of programs and policies to address the humanitarian concerns in Rakhine and the return of refugees from Bangladesh, the Under-Secretary-General encouraged the authorities to utilize the capacities, best practices, and extensive experience of the United Nations to help assure that stated intentions could be implemented in a timely and effective manner.

In northern Rakhine, the Under-Secretary-General viewed dozens of burned and destroyed villages by air and visited several communities affected by the recent violence. He also visited internally displaced persons’ camps outside Sittwe, set up in 2012. He witnessed how, in addition to the documented endemic discrimination against the Rohingya population, socio-economic challenges adversely affect all communities.  Mr. Feltman noted the Government’s endorsement of the recommendations of the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and urged their comprehensive implementation, which the United Nations can help support if so requested.

In discussions with Tatmadaw officials, the Under-Secretary-General noted that, in the UN’s experience, successful counter-terrorism efforts do not rely exclusively on security measures.  He urged the Tatmadaw to support the full implementation of the Advisory Commission’s recommendations and credible investigations into allegations of human rights abuses by security officials in Rakhine.  He underscored the importance of accountability and non-discriminatory rule of law and public safety as part of the comprehensive approach needed to address the fears and distrust among communities in Rakhine.

The United Nations is committed to supporting Myanmar and Bangladesh in their efforts to find a sustainable solution to the plight of the refugees and people affected by the recent violence and mass displacement. Returning to New York, Mr. Feltman will report to the Secretary-General as the United Nations continues to respond to the humanitarian and human rights crisis and positions itself to work with Myanmar to help relieve the suffering of the Rohingya population and address the grievances and needs of Rakhine and other ethnic groups.

Yangon/New York, 17 October 2017

 

 

Visit by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Myanmar

Note to correspondents:

Visit by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Myanmar

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will visit Myanmar from 13 to 17 October. Following the Secretary-General’s repeated calls for an end the military operations and violence in northern Rakhine state; unfettered access for humanitarian support; and the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees to their areas of origin, Mr. Feltman will be undertaking consultations with a view to addressing these urgent issues in close cooperation with Myanmar. His discussions will also focus on building a constructive partnership between Myanmar and the United Nations to tackle the underlying issues impacting all communities in the affected areas.

New York, 11 October 2017

Statement of the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar

Statement of the Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar

11 October 2017

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien announced today that she will be completing her assignment after nearly four years in Myanmar.

The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator will use her remaining time until the end of the month to further the UN system’s efforts to promote peace and security, human rights, as well as humanitarian and development assistance for all people in Myanmar. She will continue to urge for the end of violence in the northern townships of Rakhine State, to allow full access for humanitarian aid, and to ensure the safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and IDPs to their places of origin.

The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator expresses her gratitude to the Government and the people of Myanmar for the opportunity to serve in the country. She thanks her UN colleagues and partners for their exceptional commitment to promoting UN principles. She also appreciates the Secretary-General’s confidence in the UN team in Myanmar.

The departure of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator is a part of a succession process announced in the spring of this year. Renata Lok-Dessallien will be taking on another assignment at headquarters.

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