The European Union would like to thank Ms. Yanghee Lee, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for her continued work, her engagement and report. Let me use this occasion to stress the importance the European Union attaches to your mandate which offers detailed reporting on the concerning human rights issues in all of Myanmar and offers concrete recommendations on how to deal with these challenges. The EU continues to call on the Myanmar Government to resume its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, grant her immediate and unrestricted access and to address the key human rights challenges on the ground.
The European Union continues to be deeply concerned about the persistent lack of accountability for serious human rights violations in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. The recent escalation of violence in Rakhine State, and the new human rights violations reportedly committed by the Myanmar armed forces (Tatamadaw) in the context of the conflict with the "Arakan Army" is alarming.
We consistently call for accountability for those responsible for such crimes and have acted at UN level, leading to the establishment of the "Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar" (IIMM), through our joint resolution with the OIC, with a mandate to further investigate and prepare for fair and independent criminal proceedings in accordance with international law. We look forward to the Mechanism becoming operational very soon. We remain convinced that this mechanism should work in full recognition of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and we are closely following the development with the ICC Prosecutor's recent request to proceed with a full investigation.
We also recall that the European Union put in place (in April 2018, extended in April 2019) a strengthened arms embargo and a framework of targeted restrictive measures against perpetrators of serious and systematic human rights violations committed by the military and the border guard police. We are committed to keeping the list of designations under constant review and to explore possibilities for expanding the scope of restrictive measures to also include entities.
The European Union remains deeply concerned about the restrictions on humanitarian access, the difficult situation faced by IDPs, severe restrictions on freedom of expression, media and assembly, the violations of women's rights and the widespread occurrence of sexual and gender-based violence and involvement of children in armed conflicts. The government as well as the private sector fall short of implementing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights with issues such as unbated land grabbing. Last but not least, we regret the lack of progress in the implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations.
We welcome the recent limited progress of the civilian government:
1. The release by means of presidential pardon of the two Reuters journalists who investigated the human rights violations committed by the Tatmadaw in Rakhine State. We note, however, that these journalists stayed in prison longer than the seven convicted military officers who killed innocent civilians. We welcome the president’s statement that distanced himself from this flawed military process. Moreover, we invite Myanmar to review contested legislation hampering the freedom of expression, e.g. Article 66d) of the Telecommunications Act, in order to stop cases of journalists being detained on defamation charges for doing their job.
2. We welcome the Government’s ongoing work to develop a national strategy to find solutions for all internally displaced people (IDPs) across Myanmar. It is critical that the strategy will be implemented in a way that addresses the root causes of displacement (freedom of movement and access to services and job opportunities). We invite Myanmar to adopt this strategy as quickly as possible, to conduct wide consultations with local communities on its implementation and to abstain from further IDP camp closure prior to this.
3. Myanmar renewed (on 6 June 2019) its Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR and UNDP on preparations in northern Rakhine for return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. In this context, we reiterate our call on Myanmar to create the conditions in Rakhine State conducive to safe, voluntary and dignified return of the Rohingya to their homes.
4. The Government of Myanmar has stated its intention to sign and prepare for ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and ratification of the International Labour Convention 138 on the minimum working age. We hope that these commitments will swiftly be translated into action.
Madame Special Rapporteur,
Recently, the report released by Gert Rosenthal entitled "A brief and independent inquiry into the involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar from 2010 to 2018" found "foundations of systemic and structural shortcomings in the UN’s presence in Myanmar". We welcome the UN Secretary-General Guterres' commitments to implementing the recommendations of the report and look forward to the UN Secretary General's presentation of a report on the findings of the review, to be followed by a discussion, to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session as requested by the Council in March.
Madame Special Rapporteur, could you share your views on this report and recommendations?
We would also be interested to hear from you what could be done in the area of land rights, beyond the suspension of the implementation of the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management (VFV) as amended in September 2018, in order to avoid major conflicts with a negative impact on the ongoing peace process?
Thank you Mr. President.