Universal Periodic Review Should Address Broken Commitments, Impunity
Rohingya gather behind a barbed-wire fence in the border zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh, April 25, 2018. © 2018 Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images
(Bangkok) – Myanmar has failed to undertake meaningful reforms to bring its many rights-violating laws into compliance with international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today in a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2021.
Despite Myanmar’s commitments in the 2015 review cycle to adopt democratic reforms and respect civil and political rights, the government has made little progress. The government has disregarded its international legal obligations to provide accountability for Myanmar military atrocities. It has refused to cooperate with the Human Rights Council-established Fact-Finding Mission to investigate atrocity crimes, and barred the previous UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from entering the country.
“Myanmar’s unwillingness to provide accountability for rampant rights abuses seems to know no bounds,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “UN member countries should use Myanmar’s UN review to demand the government make progress through deeds, not more flowery talk, to achieve genuine human rights improvements.”
Under the UPR system, all UN member states undergo a review of their human rights records under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva every five years. Despite making commitments during the last UPR cycle, in 2015, to establish democratic institutions, adopt justice sector reforms, and promote and protect women’s rights, Myanmar has achieved little progress. Human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces against ethnic minority groups, including Rohingya, Rakhine, Kachin, Shan, Karen, and others, have significantly worsened since 2015.
Myanmar’s discriminatory framework targeting Rohingya underlies their continuing dismal situation in Rakhine State. Myanmar is obligated under international law to comply with the International Court of Justice’s January provisional measures order to prevent genocide. In Rakhine and Chin States, the population is in the second year of government-enforced internet shutdowns amid escalating fighting between the ethnic Arakan Army and Myanmar military.
The government failed to revoke or amend rights-abusing laws that undermine the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. As a result, hundreds of human rights defenders, community leaders, trade union members and leaders, and other civil society activists have faced prosecution and imprisonment for exercising their basic rights.