December 2017

Table of Contents


Introductory Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed his office’s urgent concerns regarding the grave conditions inflicted on the Rohingya in Rakhine State, which have led to a massive exodus to Bangladesh since October 2016, and particularly since August 2017. More than half the Rohingya living in Rakhine State have already been forced to leave their homes and country, with countless others having been detained, disappeared, or murdered. What have previously been periodic campaigns of violence and decades of systematic discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya have culminated into widespread, systematic and horrific attacks against the Rohingya community by the Myanmar security forces in cooperation with local militia since October 2016.

Given Myanmar’s refusal to cooperate with the OHCHR, monitoring teams monitored the situation and interviewed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, receiving insights into “acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya”, in what seems to be an organized, systematic campaign against this group on an ethnic and/or religious basis. These campaigns were executed against a massive number of people, who were killed, threatened with death if they did not leave, and prevented from returning.

The High Commissioner gave a review of the historically mounting discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community that has longstanding roots in Rakhine State, which has resulted in waves of exodus since the 1970s. Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law denies the Rohingya equal access to citizenship and has led to large-scale statelessness. Since the 1990s, Rohingya children have been refused birth certificates. Discrimination against the Rohingya aggravated pursuant to the violence of 2012, banning access to university education, bank and agricultural loans; and depriving them of identity documents, the right to vote and to form political parties. The 2015 Protection of Race and Religion package disproportionately discriminates against Rohingya Muslims, an issue that has not been addressed by the civilian government.

Rohingyas experience deep-rooted discrimination in every sphere of life as non-citizens of Myanmar, and their most fundamental economic, social and cultural rights are violated. Severe human rights violations by security forces, including arbitrary arrests and detention, ill-treatment and torture of detainees, and sexual violence, continue unabated and with impunity. Incitement to hatred and violence has escalated, with the Myanmar authorities failing to take adequate measures. Therefore, the vision prevails that the Rohingya community is “alien, barely human – undeserving of their human rights, and a threat to be destroyed”. While being persecuted, oppressed, and deprived of their rights for their belonging to the group, the Rohingya are not recognized as “Rohingya” by international and local actors. In light of this the High Commissioner appealed to the Council, asking: “How much do people have to endure before their suffering is acknowledged and their identity and rights are recognised, by their government and by the world?”

Having previously described the decades of systematic and institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya in policy, law and practice as possibly amounting to crimes against humanity, and warranting the attention of the International Criminal Court, the High Commissioner poignantly posed the questions whether, in view of the systematic and systemic discrimination in combination with the horrendous atrocity crimes committed against this distinct group, anyone can “rule out that elements of genocide may be present”. The High Commissioner emphasized that a competent court must make this legal determination and called for urgent access for further verification.

Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein deplored the non-cooperation by the Myanmar government, while thanking the government of Bangladesh for its assistance to the refugees and OHCHR. Finally, the High Commissioner called upon the Council to urge the Myanmar authorities to put an immediate end to the violence against the Rohingya, and asked the Myanmar government to fully cooperate with the OHCHR and the UN and grant access for human rights monitors and humanitarian aid. Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein emphasized that repatriation must not proceed in the absence of sustained human rights monitoring on the ground to establish the conditions for them to be able to live in safety and dignity.

The High Commissioner called for the establishment of a new impartial and independent mechanism to complement the work of the Fact-Finding Mission by assisting individual criminal investigations of perpetrators. Moreover, he asked for attention to the rights of other minorities in Rakhine. In ending, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein appealed to the Myanmar government to consider that the dehumanization of the Rohingya will further fuel division and violence and destroy future prospects for the country.


27th Special Session of the Human Rights Council – Panel Discussion

Catalina Devandas Aguilar spoke as Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and on behalf of Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar. In opening her statement, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar emphasized that the mass exodus of Rohingya evidences that the group is in a life-threatening situation. She expressed alarm at the Myanmar government’s apparent acquiescence in incitement of hatred and the condoning of intimidation and attacks against Rohingya by other groups and regretted the far-reaching stigmatization of Rohingya as foreigners that deserve no rights.

She also expressed concern about the repatriation agreement signed on 23 November by Bangladesh and Myanmar, predominantly because the required identify documents of the majority of Rohingya were never issued or revoked, withdrawn and invalidated. The agreement also neglects the persecution of the Rohingya as reason for their refuge, omitting the longstanding systematic discrimination by law, policy, and practice against them in Myanmar and the refuge of tens of thousands of Rohingya to camps in Bangladesh. In disregard of the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission chaired by Mr. Kofi Annan, the agreement requires a citizenship verification process and perpetuates the existing discriminatory laws and regulations pertaining to movement. The Chairman also criticized the construction of temporary camps by the Myanmar authorities, suggesting that Rohingya returnees would be turned into IDPs as other before them.

Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar deplored the refusal by the Myanmar government to acknowledge the causes for the Rohingyas’ flight, to cooperate with international partners to address underlying issues such as statelessness, and to grant access to Rakhine state. She expressed concern at reprisals against those cooperating with the entities and mechanisms currently assessing the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

She underlined the need for independent and impartial actors on the ground to assess the situation in Rakhine State to ensure that any future repatriation will be safe, dignified and sustainable and based on a voluntary and informed decision to return. Addressing the Myanmar government, the Chairperson highlighted the need to stop all violations against the Rohingya, to hold perpetrators to account, and to ensure their safety and protection. Moreover, she called on the authorities to grant full and unfettered access to human rights monitors including the FFM for assessment of the situation as well as to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Mr. Marzuki Darusman - Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar addressed the Human Rights Council in a video message. He stated that the denial by Myanmar to grant the mission access has not impeded its work as it has collected substantial information from outside the country, particularly through interviews with members of the Rohingya and other groups in the camps around Cox’s Bazar and elsewhere. The accounts of victims and witnesses evidenced extreme brutality against the Rohingya, including killings, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, torture, disappearances, and arson of entire villages. Particularly the interaction with children was distressing, who bore witness to the murder, burning to death, and rape of their family members. He continued:

“We have heard testimonies of young girls raped, having their throats slit or being burnt to death after being raped, or simply gang-raped to death. Women described mass rapes in the jungle and the mutilation of victims. In some cases, the site was alleged to be military barracks. All of those interviewed by the Fact-Finding Mission displayed signs of severe trauma.”

Allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity are seriously examined. Mr. Marzuki Darusman deplored rampant hate speech and dehumanizing rhetoric targeting the Rohingya people, apparently condoned by the state.

Being asked about their hopes for the future, many Rohingya expressed their wishes to return to Myanmar, but only if their personal security and human rights will be protected, their citizenship and identity will be recognized, and their return to their villages of origin and compensation for their destroyed property will be ensured. Others expressed that they had nothing to return to. The recent repatriation agreement caused widespread anxiety among Rohingya about being forced back into inhumane conditions – which is well-founded given that arson on properties continues unabated.

While affirming the mission’s efforts to ensure meticulousness, impartiality and thorough verification of facts to arrive at findings, the Chair of the FFM called for urgent actions to immediately end violence in Rakhine state and ensure non-recurrence; to counter hate speech and incitement to violence; and to guarantee repatriation only with full safeguards of safety and human rights protection and under the supervision of international and national human rights monitors and the relevant UN agencies.

Mr. Darusman highlighted that children make up majority of the refugees in the camp. Even more worrying are their testimonies as they recount horror stories such as witnessing or discovering the burning of their siblings, girls being raped and even gang raped to death, being burnt to death or having their throats slit.

After gathering information there is currently no definitive conclusion on whether there is indeed genocide despite hate speech against the Rohingya, religious hatred, and ethnic slurs on social media. This is a growing problem and people should cease insulting entire groups. Such behaviour does not bode well for the country as Rohingya with to return to Myanmar even though they have no homes and some do not have families anymore.

The following urgent actions must be taken;

i.    an immediate cessation of violence in Rakhine,

ii.    State action to counter the rise of hate speech,

iii.    repatriation with full safety but forced repatriation should not be allowed.

In concluding, Mr. Marzuki Darusman recommended Myanmar to liaise with it through a task force, composed of representatives of the relevant ministries and the security forces.

Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, commended the Council for holding this critical and timely special session, and also expressed her thanks to the people and the Government of Bangladesh who had opened their borders, homes and hearts to the Rohingya, the most persecuted minority on earth, to grant them refuge and relief. In view of the severe situation. Ms. Patten made a personal visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh from the 5th to the 13th of November, 2017 to conduct an initial assessment and sought to amplify the voices of survivors. She visited the camps that have been holding Rohingya people fleeing armed conflict and other atrocities mainly by military forces and soldiers in Rakhine State. 

She described that the stories the Rohingya shared were heartbreaking, unimaginable acts of unmitigated, systematic brutality of sexual atrocities committed in cold-blood against women and girls solely out of hatred on the basis of their ethnicity and religion, including rape, gang rape by multiple soldiers, forced nudity, and sexual slavery and captivity by the military. She underlined that every woman and girl either endured or witnessed sexual violence and had sustained visible scars, bruises, and bite marks.

The atrocious sexual violence is being used as a tool of dehumanization and collective punishment targeting the members of this “remote, deprived, and disconnected community” in Myanmar. As victims are raped in front of their husbands and loved ones all while their homes are being burnt to the ground. Moreover, the perpetrators (mainly soldiers) forced village leaders to sign documents saying that they were the ones of burnt down the houses.

The Rohingya women and girls she met were profoundly traumatized, many having been raped inside their homes and left there to perish as the houses were torched. Women and girls were strapped, bound, and raped to death. Many other civilians, including babies, were slaughtered in front of their loved ones and this practice has been acknowledged as a recurrent feature. Worse still, babies were allegedly drowned in rivers in order to contaminate the water or were thrown alive into blazing fires. Ms. Patten noted that the most common words while speaking with the women and girls were “slaughter” and “rape”.

Ms. Pramila Patten emphasized this pattern of grave violations as calculated tool seemingly aimed at the extermination of Rohingya as a group, which would continue as they were fleeing their homes to Bangladesh and landmines were laid, leading to amputation of limbs. She recounted speaking to a survivor who thought she had escaped the horrors of sexual violence or death as she neared the Myanmar border only to unfortunately step on a landmine that blew both her legs.

The Rohingya now have nothing to return to in Myanmar but ashes. She highlighted that for repatriation to proceed, the Rohingyas’ basic rights must first be guaranteed and referred to clear obligations under international law not to return people to places where they are under grave threats of violations. The Rohingya have been trapped for many decades in a vicious cycle of impunity and forced displacement, which will repeat itself if underlying conditions do not change.

Ms. Patten also said that all survivors want the perpetrators to be punished and held accountable for the horrific atrocities committed against innocent men, women, and children over several years. Some survivors in the camp have been there for over twenty-five years and have been displaced many times.

In conclusion, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict:

i.    Urged the international community to support the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh in reaching an agreement that guarantees truly voluntary decisions to return based on informed consent;

ii.    called for the Myanmar government to work with her Office, and

iii.    urged the Council to do everything in its power to put a swift end to the atrocious crimes against the Rohingya community, and

iv.   called for the establishment of an independent body to ensure accountability.

A long-lasting solution is only possible with collaborative work and by holding perpetrators to account. Unfortunately, she mentioned, there is a shortfall of funding of approximately $ 10 million USD and that resources dispensed must be equal to the scale of the challenge.

Country concerned - Myanmar

As per procedure, Myanmar, the country concerned, represented by Mr. Htin Lynn, took the floor to provide their input, to which, the representative began by acknowledging that root causes need to be addressed. Moreover, there should be more concentration regarding the challenges of repatriation as a process of return will be launched by the Myanmar government within 2 months. All relevant partners will be involved in the process of return and resettlements including members of the Myanmar society as is clearly stipulated and outlined in the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the 23rd of November, 2017.

The Myanmar government has a clear road-map and is implementing the recommendations provided in order to find solutions to various problems including poverty, development, trust, and harmony and reconciliation. Their Advisory Board has experts from the international community and Myanmar is fully prepared to work with all relevant international partners with the resettlement of displaced persons.

Mr. Lynn then took the opportunity to respond to the dialogue that took place between the panelists. Responding to the statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights he said that it is not a policy of the Myanmar government to treat victims in the ways that were described and that is instead the acts of extreme individuals who are responsible for the violations to which the government is doing all in its power to hold them accountable. Regarding the statement by the Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, Mr. Lynn said that there will be no camps for returnees but instead a place to resettle them to their original places; in addition, a negative light has been cast on such efforts of the Myanmar government. Finally, responding to the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence in Conflict he noted that Myanmar is happy to extend a visitation to the country in the near future. However, he cautioned that regarding the interviews he said that people will “see what they want to believe” and will say what they are being told to say; allegations without a concrete body of evidence is misleading people, providing misjudgment, and taking us away from the truth.

Interactive Dialogue

Summary of statements by Member States and Observer States

The first country on the list of speakers was Bangladesh, in which its representative noted that it has played no part in the crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar, yet it bears the responsibility of over 1 million displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied children, which in turn has put a huge burden on Bangladesh. In this regard there is no longer a bilateral issue. Moreover, there is an urgent need to address the root cause of statelessness.

He also said that we must ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and this can be achieved with granting further access to Fact-Finding Mission. In addition to addressing statelessness there is a need for adequate assistance in camps. Finally, he emphasized that Aung San Suu Kyi should address the crisis and the Kofi Annan report must be considered and its recommendations should be implemented.

Several countries who took the floor commended Bangladesh for their hospitality and solidarity, and the representative for Afghanistan further said that the international community should extend solidarity with Bangladesh. Many also mentioned respecting rule of law.

As expected most states expressed concern about the situation in Myanmar and condemned the atrocities inflicted on minority civilians, in particular the Rohingya, in Rakhine (some mentioned other States in Myanmar such as Kachin and Shan). The major issues that several member states mentioned in their statements were (some issues were re-iterations of the main elements outlined in the Draft Resolution):

o    Commending Bangladesh for their hospitality and solidarity to house displaced Rohingya and Rohingya refugees1;

o    Urging Myanmar to grant access to UN agencies2;

o    Urging Myanmar to grant access to and cooperate with the Fact-Finding Mission3;

o    Urging Myanmar to grant humanitarian access, humanitarian aid, and access to aid workers4;

o    Specific mention of sexual violence and/or gender-based violence5;

o    Full and free repatriation of displaced Rohingya and Rohingya refugees (as agreed in the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh on 23 Nov)6;

o    Lack of citizenship status/rights and Myanmar to ensure a process to grant full status including participation7;

o    The responsibility of the Myanmar government (or authorities) to protect all civilians without discrimination8;

o    Accountability of perpetrators and justice for the victims9;

It should be well noted that among member states that spoke only the LAS (League of Arab States) and Tunisia mentioned the word “genocide”.  Whereas, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, USA (also mentioning that the violent acts were premeditated), Iraq, Nigeria, and Finland (who noted that this is evident through satellite images) were the only member states to mention “ethnic cleansing” (Canada did mention that the acts of violence were systemic). This is a key factor to note as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” warrants immediate action by the international community under international law and as part of their responsibility to protect.

Noteworthy contributions by NGOs

Non-Governmental Organisations were also given the floor after member and observer states gave their statements and some mentioned crucial issues that were not touched on by member states.

The Alliance Defending Freedom emphasized “religious freedom” and noted that abuses on religious minorities were prevalent. Amnesty International noted other violations in Kachine State and other regions in Myanmar and that the Myanmar authorities have been downplaying reports and are not taking the situations seriously especially as there is a strong need for justice and accountability. The International Commission of Jurists noted that provisions of return must be in compliance with international law including non-refoulement and that refugees should not return unless it is voluntary and the region is safe. Asian Legal Resource Centre emphasized the Rohingya claim to citizenship, that Rohingya refugees in camps should have the necessary including psycho-social support (Finland was the only member state to also recommend psycho-social support); they also said that Myanmar should welcome the international community and the UN should investigate why violence in Myanmar arose in the first place. Human Rights Watch were concerned of arson that occurred after the 5th of November considering the government of Myanmar ensured the halt of such acts.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development in a joint statement also said that the situation has been described as ethnic-cleansing and the Human Rights Council should urge Myanmar to recognize the citizenship of Rohingya. Plan International, Inc had major concerns about the abuses committed on children and that Myanmar should protect and provide rights to Rohingya children even out of violent conflict, for instance education and they should also address key stakeholders. FIDH noted that the denial of rights to the Rohingya minority amount to ethnic-cleansing and they have been driven out of Myanmar; that Myanmar must end the campaign of incitement to hate in the media and on social media; and violations and atrocities against Rohingya must cease before any return of refugees, which was also emphasized by Save the Children International in a joint statement. World Jewish Congress further urged the international community to safeguard all minorities and iterated that Rex Tillerson, the current United States Secretary of State, said that these atrocities amount to ethnic-cleansing. United Nations Watch questioned how we can celebrate 70 years of the UN when there is ethnic-cleansing against the Rohingya and also questioned the little to non-action by Aung San Suu Kyi, the UN, and the OIC. International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists noted that in one month Myanmar will celebrate 70 years of independence and highlighted that its Constitution says that it will uphold the rights of minorities and has agreed with the Convention of the Child and CEDAW yet has ignored these commitments. RADDHO noted that the religious ethnic cleansing amounted to genocide and is also astonished by the silence of Aung San Suu Kyi. CIVICUS also noted similar atrocities in other states and the Rohingya are denied citizenship yet the local civil society are silent bystanders of these violations, adding that prompt and effective investigation and full accountability is needed. Geneva Centre for Human Rights brought to attention that they made the proposal for this special session and finally, International Campaign to Ban Landmines noted that, according to witness testimony, landmines were planted along the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, and therefore, calls on Myanmar military forces to ban anti-personal mines (a certain ban on specific mines) and also called on Myanmar to join the Convention in banning these mines.

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) and the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) delivered a joint statement emphasizing that:

widespread and systematic human rights violations accompanied by hate rhetoric committed in an organized manner by the Myanmar government, police, security forces and ordinary people against Rohingya based on their ethnic and religious belonging leaves no doubt that committed atrocity crimes amount to genocide as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Rohingya community.

And that;

it must be clear that the agreement reached between Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya cannot be implemented under the horrendous prevailing conditions: Proof of their residency in Myanmar has been revoked, invalidated, or denied. Rohingya have no home and no land to return to as their villages have been razed and their native lands rezoned and reallocated; criminal acts by security forces and vigilantism by citizens continue unabated.


As the Myanmar government has hitherto failed to adequately address the committed atrocities, Member States must assume their responsibility under international law to counteract and prevent these acts of genocide. The international community must be unified in their fight against atrocities and urgently impose an arms embargo and military sanctions.

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Outcome of the 27th Special Session of the Human Rights Council

Summary of Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1

The Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1 acknowledges the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other relevant international human rights law. It also stresses the State’s responsibility to respect, protect and promote human rights and calls upon the Myanmar government to take all measures necessary to implement the Commission’s recommendations, address underlying causes of the situation in Rakhine, to publicly condemn acts of hatred and violence, and to promote interfaith dialogue in the country.

The Draft expresses grave concerns regarding reports of violations and abuses of human rights, based on the reports of the Special Rapporteur in March 2017 and 8 September 2017, as well as the Fact-Finding Mission in September 2017. It further expresses grave concern at the non-cooperation toward the UN and international NGO’s by the Myanmar government, translating into very limited access to Rakhine state for humanitarian relief.

While stressing the need for urgent action to restore law and order, peace and security it also expresses grave concerns regarding the outbreak of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine’s State in October 2016 and August 2017 that has caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya civilians to Bangladesh rising the total to more than 600,000 Rohingyas, mainly women, children and the elderly, who then joined hundreds of thousands of previously displaced Rohingya from Myanmar in Bangladesh who fled violence in Myanmar in phases over the past years. Nearly 60 percent of the Rohingya population who have been forced to flee to Bangladesh are minors, most of them unaccompanied, separated and/or orphaned.

There is much concern with the fact that despite the Rohingya population living in Myanmar for generations prior to its independence, they have been made stateless since the enactment of the 1982 Citizenship Law and therefore have not been granted the related civil and political rights, including voting rights, which is a serious human rights violation. In light of this, the Draft is highly appreciative of the generosity shown by the Government and the people of Bangladesh for providing temporary shelter, humanitarian aid, and protection for the displaced Rohingya population.

The Draft Resolution calls upon the international community and regional organizations to:

I.    Provide support in the form of humanitarian and development assistance;

II.   Continue assisting Bangladesh in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the forcibly displaced Rohingya and other minorities;

III.  Assist Myanmar in the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected persons, taking into account the particularly vulnerable positions of women and children.

Calls upon the Government of Myanmar to:

•    Ensure protection of human rights of all people of Myanmar, including Rohingya and other minorities;

•    Take all necessary measure to provide justice to victims, ensure full accountability of perpetrators and end impunity for all violations and abuses of human rights, by facilitating a full, transparent and independent investigation into reports of all violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law;

•    Allow full, immediate, safe, unconditional and unhindered access to the UN agencies and other international and regional humanitarian actors to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to those affected without discrimination;

•    Immediately address the lack of safety and security causing mass-displacement, food-security, access to livelihood, and assurance of the Rohingya’s human rights;

•    Ensure the safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return to Myanmar of all displaced Rohingya in conjunction with international law;

•    Address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis and amend the 1982 Citizenship Law to confirm it to universally recognized principles and to restore the citizenship of the Rohingya population through an open, fast, voluntary and transparent process that leaves no individual unregistered nor hinders their access to essential social services including education and health care;

•    Take all measures necessary to counter any incitement to hatred or violence by publicly condemning such acts, and holding the perpetrators to account under criminal law;

•    Cooperate with and assist the relevant Special Procedure mandate holders by providing them with all necessary information and by responding favourably to their requests to visit the country.

Requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to track progress concerning the human rights situation of Rohingya people, and provide an oral update followed by an interactive dialogue during the 38th, 41st and 44th sessions of the Human Rights Council with the aim of reaching a comprehensive solution of the crisis within three years through full implementation of this resolution and the HRC resolution 34/22.

Requests the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a written report on the situation including on the level of cooperation and access given to the Fact-Finding Mission and other UN human rights mechanisms, the implementation of this resolution, findings and recommendations of the UN system on the situation of human rights of Rohingya people in Rakhine State, recommendations on future courses of action, and to present the report to the UN Human Rights Council at its 40th session in March 2019 and submit the report to the UN General Assembly for consideration.

Action on Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1

L1. Human Rights situation of the minority Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

Saudi Arabia was given the floor to introduce the Draft Resolution, in which, it re-iterated that the Rohingya community has been subject to violations for several years and that the aim of this Special Session is to find solutions to put an end to violations, and therefore, the Draft Resolution calls on the government of Myanmar to take measures to end the said violations as well as denounce and condemn such acts. In light of this they hope everyone will accept, adopt and assist in humanitarian assistance.

Mr. Shameem Ahsan, representative of Bangladesh was then given the floor to present the Draft Text where they noted that the convening the Text enjoyed the support of more than 80 states including the OIC and European Union, which, demonstrates a collective concern. Additionally, reticent was prevented and the Text had gone through two rounds of consultations and accommodates a wide range of views. Finally, with the addition of 32 co-sponsors they said the Draft Text is aimed at the government of Myanmar to address crisis concerning Rohingya community and other minority groups and lastly gave thanks to Myanmar for its corporation.

At this point no general comments were raised by member states.

Concerned Country

As per procedure Myanmar was given the floor to respond and make comments concerning the interactive dialogue. The representative of Myanmar, Mr. Htin Lynn, highlighted that in paragraph 117 1/51 of the Draft Text there is explicit mention for initiatives with the General Assembly, however, that this is a departure from the outlined principles and would give rise to polarization and even confrontation in Myanmar. He said, that it is regrettable that the collective efforts for pushing human rights across the globe are drifting away from impartiality and no-selectivity and noted that partiality seems to be taking roots in the Council’s work.

Mr. Lynn mentioned that Myanmar is concerned about violations in Rakhine state, however, it should be part of the solution and not part of the problem and thus the international community should not be “fanning the flame”. Promoting human rights should be for all across globe regardless of race and the Council should not be a bad example.

He went on to say that elements in the Draft Text infringe on Myanmar and some allegations are far from true as there has been use of unverified figures, which is unethical and unprofessional. Additionally, there is un-concrete evidence in the text making it questionable whether the budget is spent effectively and efficiently. Moreover, some paragraphs are copied from the Rakhine resolution of Kofi Annan including the citizenship law and Some elements were picked up selectively and put in the text.

In defence of government culpability, he alluded to the 18min video that was released demonstrating that some individuals took responsibility of the violations and atrocities and that these acts will go on wherever these individuals will go. Furthermore, the facts are not in harmony with the situation on the ground and as of today, the position of the Myanmar government remains unchanged. Mr. Lynn iterated that Myanmar is not in a position to welcome all recommendations and the UN into the country and hence Myanmar will dissociate itself from the Resolution. Mr. Lynn concluded by saying that, listening to this Special Session it is clear that the international community needs a better understanding of the situation in Rakhine and in its own capacity will continue to address long-term challenges without resolution.

At this stage the President of the Human Rights Council announced via the Secretariat that there are PBIs on the extranet.

Vote and Adoption of Draft Resolution

The representative of China was the first to take the floor noting that they fully understand the burden of Bangladesh and that the corporation of Myanmar with Bangladesh is testament to the right step forward. In addition, the International Community should extend constructive support and help in this instance. However, China said that this draft resolution does not help or ease the situation but instead may further complicate the situation of settling the issue in Rakhine State. Hence, this does not serve the interest of international community, and therefore, China will vote “no” on the Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1.

The representative of India took the floor next and said that the international community’s efforts should be towards helping the government of Myanmar and to consider the basis of cooperation between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Moreover, the Council should encourage the two countries to work together to bring normalcy to Rakhine State. In light of this view, India will “abstain” from voting on the Draft Resolution.

The representative of Philippines noted the deep historical roots of the conflict that the international community must recognize. Additionally, solutions must be constructive and robust so that states can take actions. The Philippines has dissociated with several OPs and PPs as they believe it is not in line with Myanmar and is also doubtful of the newly reports that have come out. Therefore, the Philippines will vote “no” on the Draft Resolution.

The representative of Japan said that the Draft Resolution does not reflect Japan’s view. Furthermore, Japan believes it is necessary to hold thorough discussions and dialogues with Myanmar in order to construct credible fact finding. For these reasons Japan will “abstain” from voting on the Draft Resolution.

Finally, the representative from Ecuador noted the importance of integrity and sovereignty. On this stance Ecuador does not support resolutions that do not contribute to the situation at hand but instead undermines the state. For these reasons Ecuador will “abstain” from voting on the Draft Resolution.

Thus, at the request of China a recorded vote on L.1 was taken.

•    33 states voted “YES”,

•    9 states “ABSTAINED” (Bolivia, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Mongolia, India, Japan, Kenya, Congo, Ecuador),

•    3 states voted “NO” (China, Philippines, Burundi).

Explanation of vote after the vote

The representative of Bangladesh in his general comments expressed very deep frustration that on such a proposal addressing such a crisis the resolution was actually put to vote. He reiterated that this Draft Resolution was to address a vote towards humanitarian crisis and not a political vote. He also noted that during the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s statement, the video message by the Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and during the discussion there was no objective to the procedure.

The Representative of the United States of America noted that paragraph 11 is re-statement of the UN report and paragraph 15 concerns lack of citizenship status, to which, the US believes is of serious concern. However, the PP 17 conclusion is not credible to the US. She also noted that Myanmar cannot move past this crisis while still denying the reported violations but nonetheless the US will continue to support Myanmar to overcome this crisis.

The representative of Egypt iterated that Egypt was among the Islamic States that supported this resolution. Egypt maintains its position and noted that it supported the organization of this Special Session including the Resolution because it is aware of the responsibility towards the Rohingya. The representative expressed that first, the Resolution does not include mere allegations, secondly, its aim is to find effective solutions to restore peace and stability by putting an end to violations in accordance to the Council’s mandate and it is highly important to respect this mandate, and thirdly, Egypt would have liked the High Commissioner to present its report in June instead of March considering the current state of the world.

Finally, the representative of Indonesia accentuated that the aim of this Special Session is to help Myanmar and hopes that implementation of the resolution will not impede positive efforts on ground. Indonesia re-emphasized the need for the international community to address this situation.

There were no requests for the floor by Observer States.

The President of the Human Rights Council, Mr. Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, announced that the Report of this 27th Special Session of the Human Rights Council will be available on the extranet. The President, announced that Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1 was adopted ad-referendum.


GICJ’s Conclusions and Position

Geneva International Centre for Justice takes great concern regarding the plight and suffering of the Rohingya population in Rakhine State, Kachin, and in other parts of Myanmar. The grave human rights abuses and violations reported by the Fact-Finding Mission, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, other UN agencies, and witness testimony by survivors and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh demonstrate a shocking severity of atrocities and an unprecedented scale inflicted on women, men, children, and even babies. Moreover, vilification and hate speech against Rohingyas continues to spread across the media in Myanmar as well as on social media. While further investigation is needed and conclusive reports warranted the information already gathered demonstrates ethnic cleansing and incitement of genocide as defined under Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).

If indeed it is legally established that the committed atrocity crimes against the Rohingya amount to genocide, UN Member States must assume their responsibility under international law to counteract and prevent these acts - as the Myanmar government has hitherto failed to adequately address the committed atrocities. GICJ affirms that the international community must be unified in their fight against genocide and should urgently consider imposing an arms embargo and military sanctions to protect the Rohingya population from further aggravation of their plight.

The fact that such atrocities have been on-going for decades and that disputes date back for centuries leads to the speculation that the situation is far more complex than perceived at face value. As emphasised by Mr. Ahmed Al Quarashi during the GICJ Side-event at the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) entitled “Human Rights in Myanmar: Ethnic Cleansing”, “to fully comprehend the situation it is crucial to understand the background of the Rohingya as well as the political and military history of Burma.”. Aside from the humanitarian situation the panellists at the only side-event on Myanmar during the 36th Session of the HRC, accentuated political and geo-political implications that warrant further investigation in order to address the root causes and why the crisis has lasted for decades without attention from the international community. This may be implicated in the voting decision of the Draft Resolution A/HRC/S-27/L.1.

GICJ re-emphasises the seriousness of the situation and calls on the government of Myanmar, the international community, and all relevant UN bodies to take immediate and adequate action to bring peace and stability to the Rohingya community and to ensure the promotion and security of their human rights.

1. Norway, Algeria, Afghanistan (adding that the international community should extend solidarity with Bangladesh), EU, Germany, USA, Croatia, Switzerland, Japan, Iraq, Brazil, Estonia, Indonesia, Paraguay, Botswana, Nigeria (including neighboring countries and humanitarian organizations), Thailand, Malaysia. 

2. OIC, EU, Netherlands (on behalf of a group of countries), England, Portugal, Netherlands and Ireland (adding to include access to the media), UAE, Iraq, Thailand (with a focus on making impacts on the ground), Liechtenstein, Ireland (adding to include access to NGOs).

3. OIC, EU, Slovenia, Germany, USA, Croatia, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Estonia, Paraguay, Tunisia, France, Canada, Finland, Thailand, Liechtenstein, Ireland.

4. Estonia, EU, Nordic countries, LAS, Belgium, Germany, Croatia, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, UAE (who also mentioned their humanitarian and relief contributions), Egypt, Iraq (including international and domestic humanitarian aid), Brazil, Indonesia, Qatar (emphasising to deliver aid to communities in need), Ghana, Tunisia, ROK, France, Thailand, Ireland.

5. Iceland, Afghanistan, UK GB & N. Ireland, Nordic, Portugal, Netherlands, Estonia (emphasising CEDAW to give an exceptional report and that Myanmar should take specific gender-specific measures to address Rohingya women and girls), Philippines, Ghana (including further investigations), Canada, Finland (also calling on Myanmar to respond to CEDAW), Ireland.

6. Italy, Viet Nam, Iceland, New Zealand (with a need to see details of this arrangement), Norway, Slovenia, Germany (noting that this is a positive first step), Croatia, Netherlands (including resettlement), Switzerland, Japan, Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil, Estonia, Indonesia, Paraguay, Botswana, Philippines, Ghana, Tunisia, ROK, France, Canada (only effective with key implementations on the ground), Malaysia, Ireland. 

7. Lebanon, Sweden, Iran, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, USA (noting the 1982 Citizenship Act), Portugal (only mentioning statelessness), Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil, Botswana (adding to review 1982 Citizenship Act), Ghana, Tunisia (calling for Myanmar to cooperate), Canada. 

8. Netherlands (on behalf of a group of countries), OIC, Slovenia, Germany, USA (including authorities to respect rights of all), Switzerland, Indonesia, Egypt, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Ireland.

9. Lebanon, Sweden, New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Netherlands (on behalf of a group of countries), EU, Nordic Countries, LAS, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal (only mentioning investigation), Switzerland (including the need for investigation), Netherlands, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Iraq, Botswana (emphasizing including perpetrators of sexual violence), Nigeria, Tunisia, Canada. 

Read online or download the Report

Read online or download the Report

GICJ Articles on Myanmar:

Abuses Against Rohingya are Understated by Annan Report The Plight of Rohingya in Myanmar is Ignored Discussion on Myanmar at the Human Rights Council Jamalida Begum – Rohingya Survivor Escapes Horror

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