UN Experts Urge More Help for Human Rights Defenders in Myanmar

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Photo Credit: East Asia Forum

UN experts said on Friday human rights defenders documenting and responding to atrocities by Myanmar’s military junta urgently need comprehensive support, including financial, and called on the international community to end apparent indifference to the violence targeting the country’s population.

“In the face of inaction by the international community, and with human rights violations continuing to be perpetrated on a daily basis by the military junta, human rights defenders are persisting in their support for those targeted and working to preserve the possibility of justice in the future,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Along with Tom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Lawlor highlighted the grave risks defenders face and the specific challenges confronting women human rights defenders.

“Defenders have been murdered and disappeared by the military since the coup took place. They now risk arrest, detention, torture, including sexual violence and death when going about their work and fear having their documents seized at military checkpoints,” the experts said. “Many have had to go into hiding after being targeted by the military for assisting survivors of gender-based violence. They are on the move constantly, and women human rights defenders often have no choice but to take their children with them when they flee.”

Others have had to relocate to neighbouring countries, where they remain vulnerable.

Lawlor and Andrews said they had publicly expressed concerns for the safety of defenders in the country just over a year ago.

“What’s needed is concrete support for Myanmar human rights defenders, including those who have had to flee the country: stronger, coordinated pressure on the junta, timely and responsive direct financial support for defenders on the ground, and visas or resettlement for those fleeing the country,” the experts said.

“The international community must not adopt a passive stance when it comes to the crimes that are being perpetrated by the military junta and the risks for human rights defenders in Myanmar.”