Myanmar needs to tackle serious human rights challenges for democratic transition to succeed, a UN expert said while calling for a probe into the targeting of Rohingya Muslims by government forces during the recent clashes.
In a report issued after a six-day visit, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, highlighted a number of key human rights concerns, including the situation in Rakhine state and the related detention of UN staff members, the continued detention of prisoners of conscience, and the situation in Kachin state.
Clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state reportedly killed at least 78 people and displaced thousands in June.
“The human rights situation in Rakhine state is serious,” said Ojea Quintana, who witnessed the suffering of people who have lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the violence.
In a statement issued, the expert called for a credible, independent investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations committed by State actors in Rakhine, including the excessive use of force by security and police personnel, arbitrary arrest and detention, killings, the denial of due process guarantees and the use of torture in places of detention. “It is of fundamental importance to clearly establish what has happened in Rakhine state and to ensure accountability. Reconciliation will not be possible without this, and exaggerations and distortions will fill the vacuum to further fuel distrust and tensions between communities,” he said on Saturday prior to leaving the country. Urgent attention was also required to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the displaced, particularly in the larger camps, he said, urging the international community to respond to Myanmar authorities’ appeal for increased assistance.
He also stressed the need for the government to develop a longer-term strategy for rehabilitation and reconciliation – one that is based on integration and not separation of the Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya communities.
Ojea Quintana also met prisoners of conscience at Insein Prison and called for the release of all remaining prisoners of conscience without conditions or delay. He commended the President for releasing a number of other prisoners of conscience, including Phyo Wai Aung who was released during his visit. He interviewed six UN staff members, in Insein and Buthidaung prisons, who have been detained in connection with the events in Rakhine State, adding that he had also received information that a number of staff of international non-governmental organisations had been similarly detained.
“Based on my interviews, I have serious concerns about the treatment of these individuals during detention,” said the Special Rapporteur, who called for their immediate release, adding that the charges against them are “unfounded” and that their due process rights have been denied.
Welcoming the ceasefire agreements reached with 10 ethnic armed groups, and the ongoing dialogue in this regard, Ojea Quintana said that efforts towards finding a durable political solutions to the conflicts should be accelerated and should address long-standing grievances and deep-rooted concerns amongst ethnic groups.