Myanmar: Special Rapporteur for Myanmar’s mandate must be extended

Myanmar: Special Rapporteur for Myanmar’s mandate must be extended - Civic Space

A customer looks at a new design for the Burmese flag on sale in Rangoon (Yangon). The Burmese government have recently introduced a new Burmese flag as part of the 2010 election process.

ARTICLE 19 has joined over 100 organisations in calling on the UN Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, currently held by Professor Yanghee Lee. The Special Rapporteur’s role in post-election Myanmar is crucial in ensuring that the international community remains engaged in the political transition, which is far from complete.

Open Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

Dear Excellencies,

We write to you regarding Burma/Myanmar as civil society groups working on the ground in the country. We strongly urge you to continue the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Burma/Myanmar and as in past years extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur under Item 4 of the Council’s agenda. At this important juncture in the country’s history, we request the Council and the Special Rapporteur to work towards establishing clearly benchmarked guidelines that will act as a road map for the future of human rights in Burma/Myanmar.

Burma/Myanmar’s political transition is at the cusp of a new era, however this era is yet to come and a full transition is yet to take place. It is at such moments that we look to the Council for heightened vigilance and support. These moments are fragile and years of hard work can be easily derailed at such a time in the absence of close scrutiny and monitoring.

When the Council considers Burma/Myanmar this year, the newly elected government would not have fully settled in and the extent of democratic civilian control still remains limited. Under the 2008 Constitution, the military is guaranteed 25% of Parliamentary seats; control of three key and powerful ministries; extensive powers through the General Administration Department (GAD) under the Ministry of Home Affairs; and has the upper hand in the powerful National Defense and Security Council (NDSC). Constitutional safeguards also prevent elections from truly being free, fair and credible while ensuring the military remains impervious to change. Recent legislative initiatives, such as the proposed NDSC bill, approval of the Presidential Security bill and extension of the military commander in chief’s retirement age by a further five years, are further bids to shore up the military’s power. Until the military is reformed, placed under civilian control and held accountable for its actions, it will remain the main perpetrator of human rights abuses.

In the coming months, as we approach a potential point of departure for politics in the country, it is important to recognise that beneath the political transition there lies an enormous human rights challenge.

As you may know the government’s pledge to release all political prisoners by 2013 is yet to be fulfilled. 2015 ended with 128 political prisoners still behind bars while 403 activists and human rights defenders awaited trials. The year 2015 saw an increased crackdown on dissent and the freedom of association. Notorious laws such as the Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act and the Telecommunications Act remain prone to abuse alongside a draconian criminal code. Institutions such as the judiciary and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission need urgent reforms to ensure their independence and impartiality. The military drafted 2008 Constitution in its current form entrenches impunity and enables the Burma Army to control all walks of life through its position in key ministries. Such fundamental institutional changes will require close monitoring and assistance by UN experts as well as public participation.

Serious ongoing armed conflict and escalating forced displacements, particularly in ethnic areas, makes a mockery of the peace process including the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The armed conflict continues to displace victims by the thousands and has affected most of these communities for many decades alongside widespread abuses including torture, sexual violence and extrajudicial killings, all of which still continue at present. This is in addition to the thousands of refugees along the Thailand-Burma/Myanmar border who continue to be displaced with little prospects for a safe and dignified return. The military continues to exert an iron grip on ethnic minority states and is the largest perpetrator of abuses, including the systematic use of sexual violence. A former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar called for an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country and said that abuses were “a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”. The recently signed NCA and the following Union Peace Conference have not signalled any possibility of change.

In the past few years intolerance and religious extremism have been rife in Burma/Myanmar. Systematic discrimination imposed through legislation and state policy on Muslim minority communities is notable in this regard. The intensity of this discrimination provoked a massive regional refugee and humanitarian crisis last year, encompassing parts of South Asia and a major part of South East Asia. To date, the root causes for their persecution and flight are yet to be resolved.

Deeply entrenched conflicts have to be resolved and truth, justice and accountability need to be established. This is once again a task of massive proportions that will require extensive international assistance, monitoring and expertise.

We believe that it is imperative for the UN Human Rights Council to play a leadership role in this momentous time in the history of Burma/Myanmar. The Council should utilise its long experience of engaging with the country as it continues its nascent transition and political reforms toward democracy. In order to do this the body should continue its current engagement under item 4 of its agenda and take advantage of this historic moment to provide a clear vision and roadmap to tackle the massive human rights challenges Burma/Myanmar faces. The government of Burma/Myanmar should in tandem take immediate steps to facilitate the opening of the long pending Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with a full monitoring and reporting mandate within the country.

Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration.


ေက်းလက္လူငယ္ကြန္ယက္ (ေစတုတၲရာ)
စိမ္းေရာင္စို (တံတားဦး)
ေတာင္သူလယ္သမားမ်ားသမဂၢ (တံတားဦး)
မင္းလွ၊ သရက္လူငယ္အဖဲြ႕
လြတ္လပ္ေသာအရိႈခ်င္းမ်ားအင္အားစု (ငဖဲ)
Action Committee for Democracy Development
All Arakan Civil Society Organizations Partnership
All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
All Burma Federation of Student Unions
Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process
Arakan Rivers Network
Article 19 Myanmar
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
Ayerwaddy West Development Organization (မင္းဘူး)
Azure Women Group
Back Pack Health Worker Team
Burma Issues
Burma Medical Association
Burma Partnership
Burma Study Center
Burmese Women’s Union
Candle Light
Care For Children
Chin Youth Network
Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group
Civil Authorize Negotiate Organization
Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People
Committee for Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (Burma)
Community Response Group
Community Sustainable Livelihood Development Committee
Dawei 88 Geneation
Dawei Development Association
Dawei Research Association
Dawei Watch Foundation
Dawei Youth Fellowship
Diverze Youth Art Platform
Educational Initiatives
Equality Myanmar
Ethnic Affairs Institute
Ethnic Youths Development Center
Farmer Union (Dawei District)
Farmer Union Kyaukse
Farmers And Landworkers Union (Myanmar)
Forum for Democracy in Burma
Free Thinkers
Future Light Center
Gender Equality Network
Gender and Development Institute-Myanmar
Genuine People’s Servants
Green Rights Organization (Shan State)
Green Soul
Green Trust Pyin Oo Lwin
Human Rights Defenders Myingyan
Human Rights Educators Network
Human Rights Foundation of Mon Land
Human Rights Watch Dawei
Humanity Institute
IFI Watch Myanmar
ISchool – Myanmar
Justice Movement for Community – Innlay
Kachin Canadian Association
Kachin Development Networking Group
Kachin Legal Aid Network
Kachin Peace Network
Kachin Women Peace Network
Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
Karen Human Rights Group
Karen Women’s Organization
Karenni National Women’s Organization
Karenni Refugee Committee
Karenni Social Welfare and Development Center
Kayan Women’s Organization
Land in Our Hands
Mae Tao Clinic
Mon Youth Organization – Ye
Mong Pan Youth Association
Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability
Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (Mandalay Division)
Myanmar China Pipeline Watch Committee
Myanmar Network Organization for Free and Fair Elections
Myanmar People Alliance
Nay Thu Yein Law Firm
Network for Democracy and Development
Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
Overseas Irrawaddy Association
Palaung Women’s Organization
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – Myanmar
Paung Ku
Peace & Open Society (Kyaukse Twonship)
Peace and Justice
Rays of Kamothway Indegnious Pepole Network
Sha-it Social Development Foundation
Shan Human Rights Foundation
Shan Youth Power
Social Program Aid for Civil Education
Tanintharyi River and Indegnious People Network
Tavoyan Women’s Union
Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace and Development
Thuriya Sandra Environmentally
Union of Karenni State Youth
United ACT
Upper Chindwin Youth Network
Volunteer Youth Group (ေစတုတၲရာ)
Wan Lark Development Foundation (Arakan)
Warmly Metta Organization
Women And Peace Action Network (Shan State)
Women’s League of Burma
Yaung Chi Oo Workers’ Association
Yaung Zin Organization
Youth Development Network
Youth Pacemaker Organization
Zomi Students and Youth Organization