Burma: UPR commitments remain largely unaddressed

Press release
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Paris, Bangkok, 23 March 2015: Burma has failed to fully implement commitments it made at its last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2011, FIDH and its member organization ALTSEAN-Burma said in their joint report submitted to the Working Group on the UPR yesterday. Burma will be reviewed at the 23rd Session of the Working Group on 6 November 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“President Thein Sein’s administration has failed demonstrably to implement important UPR recommendations that are critical to steer the country towards a genuine transition to democracy and greater respect for human rights,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

During its last UPR in 2011, Burma accepted only 74 of the 190 recommendations it received from other states. However, many of the key recommendations Burma committed to implement have remained largely unaddressed.

Despite its pledge to ratify core international human rights treaties, Burma has failed to sign or ratify any of them. Burma also promised to review and amend its laws to guarantee the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. However, many repressive laws remain on the books. Out of the 14 laws identified by the UN as not in line with international standards, the government has only repealed three. [1] New laws adopted by Parliament, such as the Peaceful Gathering and Demonstration Law, the Printing and Publishing Law, and the Media Law, fall short of international standards and limit the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Burma expressed its commitment to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. But courts across the country have continued to hold trials that are not in keeping with the accepted norms of due process. This is particularly evident in criminal prosecutions of activists, human rights defenders, and members of ethnic and religious minorities, who are routinely jailed as a result of unfair trials held in kangaroo courts.

Burma also agreed to resolve the many armed conflicts between the central government and ethnic minority groups around the country. Since 2011, the Tatmadaw [Burma’s Army] has broken a long-standing ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and resumed hostilities against other ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Northern Shan States. The ongoing conflict in Kachin and Shan States has created approximately 100,000 IDPs, most of whom have spent the majority of the last three years in temporary shelters. The Tatmadaw’s actions, notably attacks against civilians, may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

During its 2011 UPR, Burma pledged to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights of ethnic groups in Northern Arakan State. Regrettably, the human rights situation in the state has dramatically deteriorated since then. Reports of serious human rights violations committed by security forces against Muslim Rohingya persist. In addition, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, government authorities failed to prevent or effectively intervene in multiple outbreaks of violence that predominantly targeted Muslim Rohingya. The government has also failed to hold those responsible for the attacks accountable. The violence resulted in the displacement of 140,000 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Muslim Rohingya.

With regard to women’s rights, Burma pledged to adopt effective measures to ensure that violence against women is treated as a criminal offense and perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. Despite these commitments, the reality on the ground remains unchanged. Of particular concern are ongoing reports of rape and sexual violence committed by Tatmadaw soldiers in ethnic areas with impunity. Women have also been victims of other Tatmadaw abuses, including arbitrary arrests, forced displacement, and enforced disappearance.

Finally, Burma committed to increase its efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking. However, human trafficking continues unabated. The US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report has ranked Burma among the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ countries - the second to lowest ranking - for three consecutive years (2012-2014).

“The government’s failure to meet commitments made during its last UPR has been compounded by the escalating military hostilities against ethnic armed groups, continued impunity for Tatmadaw soldiers who commit abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, and new proposed legislation that discriminates against religious minorities. President Thein Sein must make it a priority to turn this situation around immediately,” said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.

In a separate joint UPR submission, FIDH and the World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP), an alliance of more than 150 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities, and unions, found that since its last UPR, Burma has made very little progress towards the abolition of capital punishment. The death penalty remains on the books and courts have continued to impose death sentences. Between January 2011 and March 2015, at least 67 people were sentenced to death. However, no executions have been carried out since 1988.

Press contacts
Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66 88 6117722 (Bangkok)
Mr. Arthur Manet (French, English, Spanish) - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)

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