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REPORT OF THE SPECIAL RAP ON MYANMA
- Subject: REPORT OF THE SPECIAL RAP ON MYANMA
- From: darnott@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 02 Apr 2000 07:48:00
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar to the 56th Session of the UN
Commission on Human Rights, (Geneva, March-April 2000).
Divided into two sections for easier downloading. NB, Page numbering in the
Contents refers to the original pagination.
Economic and Social Council
24 January 2000
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 9 of the provisional agenda
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL
FREEDOMS IN ANY PART OF THE WORLD
Situation of human rights in Myanmar
Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah, submitted in
accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1999/17
Executive summary 3
I. ACTIVITIES OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
II. THE EXERCISE OF CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS 7-29 5
A. Measures adversely affecting democratic governance 7-14
B. Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions 15-16 6
C. Freedom of association 17
D. The administration of justice 18-29
III. THE EXERCISE OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND
CULTURAL RIGHTS 30-49
A. Background 30-31
C. Food security 36-37
D. AIDS/HIV epidemic
E. State of education
F. Forced labour 44-49
IV. THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE 50-58 13
A. Violence against women 50-56
B. Forced labour
C. Arbitrary detention
V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 59-65 15
A. Conclusions 59-64
Political repression and the lack of real engagement in a political
dialogue with opposition groups continue to be the main sources of measures
adversely affecting democratic governance in Myanmar. The policy of
large-scale displacement of certain ethnic groups, the continued practice of
forced labour for military camp work and portering, and related human rights
violations remain the main cause of refugee movements.
The Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations indicated
at the General Assembly last November that the authorities in Myanmar were
giving serious consideration to a visit by the Special Rapporteur. To date no
concrete steps have materialized.
Myanmar's ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Karen, Karenni,
Shan and Rohingyas, continue to suffer severe abuses, including arbitrary
arrest, killings, forced labour in the army and trafficking of women.
The administration of justice continues to operate under the effective
control of a military regime where the exercise of the basic freedoms of
expression, association, assembly and movement are criminalized under the law
itself. Vaguely worded laws, such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act and the
1975 State Protection Law, continue to be used to arrest and sentence persons
for their peaceful political activities. It is estimated that in 1998 there
were approximately 800 political prisoners in Myanmar.
According to reliable studies of the economic and social situation in
Myanmar, the country is riddled with abject poverty. Child mortality rates are
relatively high for a country with Myanmar's level of gross domestic product
per capita. Poverty rates are approximately the same in urban and rural areas,
but most of the poor (71 per cent) live in rural areas. Flawed policies and
inefficient mechanisms for rice procurement are largely responsible for the
high level of malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality. Government
budgetary priorities that in effect limit expenditure on social services have
exacerbated the current situation.
The adoption by the Government of Myanmar of military solutions to
political problems, while seeking military and financial inputs from outside
the country to impose its order on the people, continues to generate a pattern
of gross and systematic human rights violations.
Unless the regime moves away from military solutions and engages
in an all-inclusive political dialogue with the political opposition, including
representatives of the ethnic groups, and addresses the concerns of the
international community, the pattern of human rights violations which has
characterized the last decade in Myanmar will continue and no significant
progress can be expected towards realizing the country's economic potential and
achieving the levels of human welfare and prosperity enjoyed by the rest of
1. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights
on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has been described in each of the
Special Rapporteur's previous reports to the General Assembly (annexes to
documents A/47/651, A/48/578, A/49/594 and Add.1, A/50/568, A/51/466, A/52/484,
A/53/364 and A/54/440) and to the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1993/37,
E/CN.4/1994/57, E/CN.4/1995/65 and Corr.1, E/CN.4/1996/65, E/CN.4/1997/64,
E/CN.4/1998 and E/CN.4/1999/35). The mandate was extended for a further year
by resolution 1999/17 of the Commission on Human Rights, which requested the
Special Rapporteur to submit an interim report to the General Assembly at its
fifty-fourth session and to report to the Commission at its fifty-sixth
session, keeping a gender perspective in mind when seeking and analysing
information (para. 8).
I. ACTIVITIES OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
2. On 4 October 1999, the Special Rapporteur presented his interim report
on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to the fifty-fourth session of the
General Assembly (A/54/440) and made an introductory statement. While in New
York, he had discussions with representatives of various Governments and
non-governmental organizations as well as individuals who provided him with
information on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
3. It should be recalled that, since his appointment in June 1996, the
Special Rapporteur has yet to be allowed by the Government of Myanmar to
examine the situation in situ and to meet with government officials and other
persons relevant to the effective exercise of his mandate.
4. It should be noted that, in response to the submission of his last
interim report to the General Assembly, the Permanent Representative of the
Union of Myanmar to the United Nations reiterated his Government's rejection of
the appointment of the Special Rapporteur, on the ground that it constituted an
interference in the internal affairs of Myanmar. He expressed, as on previous
occasions, his disagreement with the contents of the Special Rapporteur's
report. He stated however, that his Government did not rule out a visit by the
Special Rapporteur. Similar indications had, year after year, been given in
the General Assembly and the Commission by the Permanent Representative of
Myanmar. To date no positive steps have been taken to allow such a visit. The
Special Rapporteur reiterates his regret that in the nearly four years since
his appointment, the Government of Myanmar has not responded to the repeated
calls of the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights for
cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and to authorize his visit. In spite
of the lack of cooperation from the authorities in Myanmar, and as in previous
years, the Special Rapporteur has received considerable assistance and
information from governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental sources.
He has also received relevant information from individuals about the human
rights situation in Myanmar.
5. The Special Rapporteur has proposed to visit two neighbouring countries
in order to conduct interviews of refugees and other displaced persons from
Myanmar in those countries. The Special Rapporteur expects that the mission
could take place in the course of this year.
6. The present report is based upon information received by the Special
Rapporteur up to 15 December 1999 and is to be read in conjunction with his
interim report to the General Assembly.
II. THE EXERCISE OF CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS
A. Measures adversely affecting democratic governance
7. In his report to the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly
(A/54/440), the Special Rapporteur indicated that opposition political parties
continued to be subject to intense and constant monitoring by the regime and to
severe restrictions on their activities; their members have been prohibited
from leaving their localities and subjected to intimidation, personal
harassment and harassment of their families, and arrest and imprisonment,
particularly in the case of members of the National League for Democracy (NLD),
the object being to procure the resignation of those members.
8. The Special Rapporteur continues to receive reports indicating that the
campaign of harassment and intimidation continues to be conducted against
high-ranking members of NLD in general and the rank and file membership in
particular for the purpose of procuring their resignations. It would appear
that Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders are able to meet but always subject
to restrictions and close monitoring. Public meetings are not allowed. As a
result of forced resignations, particularly among members of executive
committees, a number of NLD branch offices have closed down or were forced to
close. By March 1999 there had been over 50 branch closures. Moreover, a
number of sources reported in September 1999 that many members of the NLD,
including MPs-elect, and other activists (in the hundreds) were still in prison
or were under arrest or some form of detention while others were subject to
restrictions on their freedom of assembly and movement and to systematic
9. Restrictions imposed by the regime on ethnic opposition parties are
reported to continue unabated. For instance, two senior members, Naing Tun
Thein (82) of the Mon National Democratic Front and Kyin Shin Htan of the Zomi
National Congress, two of the ethnic opposition parties in Myanmar, were
arrested shortly after they met with the Special Envoy of the United Nations
Secretary-General, Mr. Alvaro de Soto, during his visit to Myanmar from 14 to
18 October 1999. No official reason has been given for their detention.
Another ethnic leader, Doo-wah U Zaw Aung, of Myanmar's Kachin nationality and
the MP-elect for the township of Waingmaw, disappeared at the beginning of
August. It is reported that his fate or whereabouts remain undetermined.
10. Reports indicate that three ethnic leaders were arrested in September
1998 for supporting the Committee Representing the People's Parliament formed
by NLD to speak on behalf of Myanmar's elected parliamentarians. Two of them
were subsequently released in order to receive medical treatment, but the
third, Saw Mra Aung (82) from the Arakan League for Democracy, has remained
under arrest for more than a year.
11. According to news bulletins received by the Special Rapporteur, the
authorities in Kachin State ordered the branch of the Shan National League for
Democracy (SNLD) in Waingmaw township to close down in November . No official
reasons were given. It is further reported that in August two MPs-elect from
Labutta township, U Kyi Win, a Supreme Court lawyer, and Aye Kyu, along with
two other township officers of the NLD, were sentenced to two years in prison
in Myaung Mya for their efforts to secure the release of four other township
branch members. The four were sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
12. Regular "resignations" of NLD members continue to be announced in The
New Light of Myanmar, Myanmar TV and other media channels, all controlled by
the regime, in furtherance of its systematic policy of intimidation and
repression directed against NLD and its supporters. According to sources
inside Myanmar, about 48,000 NLD members have been reported as resigning since
the campaign began a year ago. A large majority of these resignations are
reported to have been registered in Irrawaddy, Mandalay and Pegu Divisions.
13. The Special Rapporteur has also been apprised of daily features
published in the Government-controlled press belittling and vilifying the
leadership of NLD, in particular Aung San Suu Kyi, inciting the public to treat
them as enemies and to destroy them, presenting them as stooges of foreign
Powers, jeopardizing stability and progress, and as being destructive agents.
14. The Special Rapporteur wishes to recall the pledge made by the
authorities of Myanmar since 1990 after the general elections, in particular in
Declaration No. 1/90 (see A/51/466, chap. III.C), and similar subsequent
assurances often repeated in international forums. With a view to redeeming
that pledge, to achieving national reconciliation and to enabling Myanmar to
fulfil its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the authorities should respond to the
calls of the General Assembly and the Commission, put an end to the hostile
policy they have carried on against their own people and engage in a
substantive dialogue with the political leaders in the opposition, including
Aung San Suu Kyi, and representatives of the ethnic groups.
B. Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
15. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
has, during the last reporting period (November 1998-October 1999), transmitted
three communications to the Government of Myanmar regarding 11 allegations of
violations of the right to life of individuals, most of whom were reportedly
porters killed by troops of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
16. More specifically, one of the communications concerned a group of women
who were allegedly raped and shot by an SPDC commander near the villages of Wan
Wawn and Wan Ek, Nawng Kaw Tract, Nam-Zarng Township, in January 1999.
Further, it is also reported that when a civilian porter who witnessed the
scene tried to intervene, the commander shot him as well. Another
communication concerned a number of porters who were allegedly executed by SPDC
troops on 4 December 1998 in Kae-See Township. In the third communication,
information was transmitted to the Government regarding allegations of two
executions on 5 December 1998 of porters who were kicked and beaten, and
finally shot, by SPDC troops because they became too weak from exhaustion and
lack of food over a period of days to carry equipment.
C. Freedom of association
17. On 15 November 1999, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression sent a
communication to the Government of Myanmar on behalf of nine persons, two of
whom are NLD MPs-elect, namely, Saung Win Latt, U Hla Pe, U Zeya, U Moe Thu, U
Win Tin, U Myo Mynt Nyen, U Sein Hlaing and U Aung Tin and U Boe Thin,
requesting information about the legal basis of the charges and offences of
which they were convicted.
D. The administration of justice
18. According to a recent study conducted by the Centre for the
of Judges and Lawyers (CIJL) of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
and published in its annual report, Attacks on Justice, the rule of law in
Myanmar has malfunctioned since the military Government began its rule in 1988,
as the Special Rapporteur and his predecessor have found in their reports over
the past several years.
19. The study recalls that in September 1988, Law No. 2/88, the Judiciary
Law, was enacted by the regime. Under that law, a Supreme Court was
established, composed of a Chief Justice and "not more than five Judges".
Lower courts, the state or division and township courts, are established by the
Supreme Court. Military tribunals, established in 1989 for the purpose of
trying martial-law offenders under special summary procedures, were abolished
in September 1992.
20. The military regime appoints the Judges of the Supreme Court. The
Supreme Court selects judges for the lower courts, but requires the approval of
the regime. The Supreme Court is further in charge of supervising the lower
courts. The Judiciary Law does not contain any provisions on the security of
tenure of judges and their protection from arbitrary removal, thus leaving such
issues entirely in the hands of the military regime and, what is worse, without
any guarantees provided by law by which the military regime is bound.
21. In this regard, according to the CIJL study, five Judges of the Supreme
Court, namely U Kyaw Win, U Aung Myin, U Than Pe, U Tin Ohn and U Tin Htut
Naing, were "permitted" by the regime to retire by Order No. 5/98. No reasons
were given. It is widely believed that, because cases submitted by NLD were
pending and the regime was uncertain as to how those Judges would decide the
outcome, they were forced to retire.
22. The administration of justice is greatly marked by constraints
inconsistent with judicial independence and characteristic of a military
dictatorship. According to section 2 (a) of Law No. 2/88, justice is required
to be administered "independently, according to law". In reality, however, the
judiciary is far from independent. This situation results from the suspension
of the Constitution and the numerous decrees made by the regime the object of
which is to arrogate to itself complete control over the whole political life
of the nation and to restrict all civil freedoms that are likely to interfere
with that objective.
23. In addition to the military Government's unrestricted powers in the
appointment of judges, the courts are powerless to protect the rights of
victims of oppression. This is so because a great number of decrees have been
promulgated by the regime for the purpose of repressing political activity and
freedom of thought, expression, association and movement, among others.
Moreover, emergency laws are still resorted to. These, in Myanmar, are similar
to those devised in colonial times, long before the adoption of the Universal
Declaration and the human rights treaties which have since followed. The
courts have no jurisdiction to challenge or to discard this repressive legal
arsenal. For this reason, the courts have become a mere instrument to provide
formal and apparent, but clearly not substantive, legitimacy to the regime's
systematic repression of the civil and political rights which constitute the
very basis of the rule of law, democracy and democratic governance.
24. Basic guarantees of due process and judicial control over detention do
not in practice exist, even in cases involving violations of the provisions of
the law that criminalize political activity and the exercise of civil rights
for that purpose. For example, without the permission of the intelligence
organs, judges cannot even let the family and counsel of the accused know what
sentence has been passed. In many cases, the accused is kept in ignorance of
the section of law under which he is charged. There have been reported
instances where Military Intelligence has passed sentences orally at the time
of arrest, before any trial had taken place. More often than not trials are
held in camera.
25. According to the CIJL study referred to above, since the assumption of
power by the regime in 1988, the freedom of individual lawyers to exercise
their profession and defend political opponents of the regime has in practice
been severely suppressed. The Lawyers' Associations, the voice of the
profession, have been silenced. The Bar Council has not been independent since
1989, and is instead supervised by the Attorney-General and is staffed by
26. Many of the decrees promulgated by the State Law and Order Council
(SLORC), as it then was, remain in force today, including Order No. 2/88 which
prohibits public gatherings of more than five people and No. 8/88 which, in its
effects, prohibits debate and criticism.
27. In cases other than those involving political activity, some basic due
process rights, including the right to a public trial and to be represented by
a defence attorney, are generally respected. Defence attorneys are permitted
to call and cross-examine witnesses, but their primary role would, in practice,
be to bargain with the judge to obtain the least severe sentence possible for
28. During the past few years many lawyers have had their licences
for involvement, alleged or real, in politics. Lawyers who may have been
arrested, imprisoned or released prior to 1997 reportedly remain unable to
practise their profession. For example, according to CIJL, Myint Aung (lawyer,
licence No. 3277) was arrested and charged under section 2 (1) (a) of the Arms
Act. His trial was heard on 16 and 17 May 1990 at Yangon Division Joint
Magistrates Court No. 12 and he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with
hard labour. He was prevented from practising law as of 4 November 1993, and
his licence to practise was withdrawn. A similar fate befell U Toe Aung
(lawyer, licence No. 1049). He was charged under the notorious article 5 (j)
of the Emergency Act 1950 and sentenced to five years' imprisonment on 7
February 1991. His licence too was withdrawn.
29. CIJL reports that some 50 lawyers are unable to practise their
profession owing to similar treatment by the regime. It also reported that
lawyers are often reluctant to take on cases involving human rights abuses by
Military Intelligence (MI) Officers or soldiers for fear of arrest, retaliation
or harassment by the authorities and the removal of their right to practise.
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