United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged the Myanmar government to take action to address the escalating prejudice and incitement against Rohingya Muslims and other minority communities.
“Decisive measures are needed to ensure genuine accountability and civilian oversight of the military. Legal and policy reforms are needed, including with regard to citizenship,” she said in a statement delivered at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday.
Bachelet said the root causes of these violations are complex, multidimensional and longstanding ones. “Unpacking and untangling this multifaceted human rights challenge require understanding the historical, political, economic and social dimensions as a prerequisite to identifying solutions.”
The UN human rights chief said democratic deficits in Myanmar, as well as entrenched impunity, weak rule of law, and the lack of civilian oversight over the military, have been major enabling factors.
Bachelet said discrimination and exclusion against religious and ethnic minorities have characterised many of the laws and policies of Myanmar for over half a century.
They have contributed to and perpetuated violence, extreme poverty, exploitation and dispossession. Notably, the 1982 Citizenship Law rendered stateless a significant proportion of the Rohingya and other Muslims, compounding their vulnerability.
Bachelet said several international accountability mechanisms have commenced proceedings in relation to the alleged international crimes committed in Myanmar.
She said economic interests have also been an important driver, fuelling displacement, deepening inequalities and depriving minority communities of the basic means for survival.
Bachelet said the social and economic impact on women and girls, particularly through sexual and gender-based violence, has been especially acute.
The human rights chief said the recent upsurge of xenophobia and violence can also be partly attributed to the stresses and uncertainties of Myanmar’s current transition from decades of authoritarian rule.
She said the dramatic expansion of public access to social media has enabled extremist and ultra-nationalist movements to propagate messages inciting hatred and violence, fuelling communal tensions.
Bachelet said education reforms can encourage a new sense of national identity and promote diversity and tolerance. Transitional justice processes can help to heal deep divisions.
She said this year’s elections, current discussions of Constitutional reform, and the ongoing peace process are important opportunities to address the past and shape a common vision for the future.
Bachelet said rebuilding a society based on values of equality, non-discrimination and mutual respect, after so many years of repression and conflict, will also be key to fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development across the entire country.
“I reiterate the readiness of my Office and United Nations system to assist the Government to address these root causes and implement the report’s recommendations,” she said.