Civil Society Groups Urge Govt to Accept UN Fact-finding Mission

By The Irrawaddy 26 May 2017

RANGOON — More than 50 civil society groups in Burma urged the government to fully cooperate with a UN-mandated fact finding mission into human rights abuses in Arakan, Shan, and Kachin states in a joint-statement released Friday.

“The Fact Finding Mission will help the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to uphold human rights, and it will foster a rule-of law culture by establishing the facts and identifying perpetrators of human rights violations to prevent future atrocity crimes,” read the statement signed by groups from across the country including Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), Burmese Women’s Union, and Karen Women Organization.

Failure on the part of the National League for Democracy-led government or the military leadership to cooperate with the mission could cause Burma’s human rights situation to deteriorate and more atrocities, the groups argue.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution—adopted at its 34th session in Geneva, Switzerland in March—provides a mandate “to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces,” but has been consistently rejected by both Burma’s civilian and military leaders.

A flash report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released in February documented allegations of arson, torture, extrajudicial killings, and widespread sexual violence against the minority Muslim Rohingya population in northern Arakan State during Burma Army “clearance operations” launched in response to insurgent attacks on police border guard posts on Oct. 9 of last year.

“It’s not too late for civilian and military authorities to work with this mission to establish the facts and prevent further violations and abuses,” said Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute, a signatory to the statement according to a Fortify Rights’ press release.

“National reconciliation, stability, and development depend in large part on ending and remedying abuses and atrocities, and that can’t happen until the facts are firmly established.”

Matthew Smith, director of Fortify Rights, told The Irrawaddy that the diversity of the signatories showed the widespread concern for rights abuses in the country.

“The narrative that the entire country overlooks atrocities in Rakhine [Arakan State] is tired and inaccurate, and a lot of groups in the country are equally concerned about atrocities in the north as well,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The timing of the statement’s release during the Union Peace Conference, he said, showed discontent with the government’s current approach to national reconciliation.

“Sadly I don’t think anyone is holding their breath for national reconciliation through the current peace process,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Civil society is industrious and fierce and will keep working for solutions; the international community can and should support them.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi previously said the UN mission “does not correspond with our country’s [situation],” at her state of the union address last month. Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that any international political intervention on the pretext of assisting refugees from this community would threaten Burma’s sovereignty at the 72nd Anniversary of Armed Forces Day in March.

Last month, 23 international organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Fortify Rights, called on overseas governments to engage Burmese authorities in allowing unfettered access to the UN fact-finding mission.