“The Human Rights Situation in Myanmar”, Fifth Special Session Human Rights Council, 2 October 2007, Geneva, Statement by Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Mr. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro

2 October 2007

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Colleagues and friends,
I welcome and congratulate the members of this Council for the decision to convene this “Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar” and for engaging me in the inter-active dialogue on the serious human rights violations currently unfolding in the country.
I am shocked and saddened by the growing number of reported deaths and serious injuries suffered by protesters, including monks, and bystanders in Yangon, Mandalay and other major cities in Myanmar. I strongly condemn the use of deadly force by the security forces and call upon the Government of Myanmar to desist from such brutal measures and to cooperate in the efforts launched by the international community designed to prevent the further deterioration of the human rights situation. The recent media black-out and cutting of internet access is a further example of the intolerable and oppressive means used by the authorities. I urge the Human Rights Council to assess the current situation and request from the Government of Myanmar investigations and detailed information on the number of people killed and injured. Impunity should not prevail for flagrant violations of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I have joined the denunciation of the brutal crack-down in recent public statements with Special Procedures colleagues covering mandates on summary executions; freedom of religion; human rights defenders; freedom of expression; torture; independence of judges and lawyers as well as arbitrary detention. We are deeply concerned by the fate of thousands of peaceful demonstrators who have been arrested since the beginning of the protests over the drastic increase in prices of fuel, on 19 August 2007, and call on the authorities of Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release the detainees and political prisoners, including the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi. The Government must provide the Human Rights Council with full account for its actions during and after the protests, including the number and conditions of detainees.
The failure of the international community to prevent the massacre following the 1988 people’s uprising causing the death of over 3000 protestors must not be repeated. The world is watching and while the time for mere words has passed, decisive action is now needed. No state can condone such actions. I therefore echo the United Nations Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' recent press statements and recall that the use of excessive force, killings, arbitrary arrest or ill-treatment of peaceful protesters is strictly prohibited under international law and could invoke individual criminal responsibility.

I welcome the access provided by the Authorities of Myanmar to the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, Under Secretary-General Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, and hope that he will succeed in opening a space of dialogue and peaceful settlement of the brutal crackdown by the military.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council,

I applauded the courageous role played, at the risk of their lives, by women and men, student leaders, monks and the society at large in these peaceful protests. The Myanmar authorities should be proud of its vibrant civil society and engage without hesitations in a constructive and transparent dialogue with all parties so as to lay down a road map for a healthy and empowered democratic society, for the benefit of the country and the region.

There is an urgent necessity to better coordinate the different approaches among member states to find ways to contribute to the process of transition towards democracy in Myanmar. A strategic dialogue should be reached trough contacts & meetings with the Government, aiming at reconciling the army with the people of Myanmar. In particular, I urge States in the region to assist the country in upholding the principles of democracy and rule of law. I therefore welcome the solidarity of the international community and am encouraged by the expressions of deep concern issued by key international and regional actors, in line with the statement issued by the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) urging Myanmar to desist from the use of violence against demonstrators.

Despite having not been granted access to Myanmar since November 2003, I have continued to closely follow the events in the country and to fulfill my mandate to the best of my ability based on information collected from a variety of independent and reliable sources, maintaining a positive dialogue with the Permanent Missions of Myanmar in Geneva and New York. I stand ready to conduct a mission to assess, with the support of OHCHR, the current situation in situ and report back to the President of the Council should the members so decide. I am convinced that the government of Myanmar could benefit from a more active cooperation with my mandate, insisting that my obligation to go to the public about allegations of human rights violations does not exclude a constructive and continuous dialogue with the Government. The combination of these two elements of my mandate can contribute to a new dynamic for the improvement of the situation of human rights in the country.

My forthcoming report to the General Assembly (A/62/223), which I will present at the Third Committee on 24 October 2007, enumerates the human rights concerns and includes comments provided by the Permanent Mission of Myanmar. The persecution of members of political parties in the opposition and human rights defenders shows that nowadays the road map for democracy and the laying down of principles for a new constitution by the National Convention faces many obstacles to bring a genuine transition. There will be no progress in Myanmar's political transition unless ordinary people have space to express their views and discontent, peacefully and in public. The starting point for a national reconciliation requires meaningful and inclusive dialogue from the Government with and between political representatives and ethnic groups. I therefore call for international actors, including through the Human Rights Council mechanisms, to contribute to this process.

Thank you.