Calling for the release “arbitrarily detained” people in Myanmar, including civilian government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the UN’s top human rights body convened a special session in Geneva today to discuss the military coup of 1 February.
In her opening remarks to the Human Rights Council, the UN’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif warned that “the world is watching”
Myanmar’s military junta.
“Draconian orders have been issued this week to prevent peaceful assembly and free expression, and police and military presence on the streets has grown progressively over the last several days. Following violent clashes with police on 9 February, at least one woman is in critical condition. Pro-military and nationalist groups have also taken to the streets,” Ms. Al-Nashif said.
A draft resolution presented by the United Kingdom and the European Union, calls for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Ms. Suu Kyi and other senior officials in her government, a lifting of restrictions on the internet and unimpeded humanitarian access, among other things.
“Let us be clear: the indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons against peaceful protestors is unacceptable. More violence against Myanmar’s people will only compound the illegitimacy of the coup, and the culpability of its leaders”, said the Deputy High Commissioner.
General Min Aung Hlaing’s coup on February 1 ousted the civilian government of Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi following a general election in November which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming “widespread fraud.” The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.
“This crisis was born of impunity”, said the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Long-standing lack of civilian control over the military, its disproportionate influence in the country’s political and economic structures, and ongoing failure to genuinely account for crimes committed by the security forces over decades, have combined to compromise Myanmar’s democratization and indeed its development,” Ms. Al-Nashif added.
The UN official urged “the strongest possible call for the military authorities to respect the result of the election, to return power to civilian control and immediately release all individuals arbitrarily detained”.
The draft resolution sponsored by the UK and the EU also calls to give the independent expert on Myanmar, Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, access to the country.
Mr. Andrews addressed the Human Rights Council by video conference, saying that “the very act of convening this session makes an important statement of the gravity with which this Council views the coup d’état of a duly elected government and the events that have followed”.
On the accusations of election fraud, he said that “even if election irregularities did exist, there was, and is, no justification for declaring a state of emergency, arresting the civilian leadership, and attempting to destroy Myanmar’s fledgling democracy”.
He added that “the coup is truly illegal in every sense of the word” and that “the international community must refuse to recognize this illegal regime”.
The draft resolution emphasizes that the Myanmar military and other security forces and authorities should respect the right to peaceful assembly and refrain from using any unnecessary or excessive force against the public.
“There are growing reports and photographic evidence that Myanmar security forces have used live ammunition–– lethal force––against protesters”, the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar told the Council. “This violates international law. Arbitrary detentions and intimidation are also on the rise. Not only are political leader targets, but community and civil society leaders as well”.
Myanmar’s Ambassador Myint Thu responded by underscoring his country’s commitment to democratic values, and justifying the military’s intervention as necessary.
“In light of the post-election irregularities and the following complex situation, Tatmadaw was compelled to take the State responsibilities in accordance with the State constitution. With the ordinance No. 1/2021 on 1 February 2021, the state of emergency was declared for one year and the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the State were transferred by Acting President to the Commander in Chief of the Defense Forces,” he said, adding that “the State Administrative Council was formed on 2nd February 2021, with 16 members”.
The 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council will vote on the draft resolution in the afternoon, Central European Time.