The UN Human Rights Council today debated Burma and North Korea, hearing reports from P. Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Myanmar and V. Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Myanmar’s “lack of cooperation”
The Special Rapporteur on Myanamar highlighted the deterioration of the human rights situation there and deplored an increased militarization. He further regretted “the lack of cooperation from the Burmese government,” which has denied him entry.
Pinheiro said freedom of association and expression was severely curtailed in Myanamar, with ongoing arrests of monks and others. The UN expert called on the Council to hold Myanmar accountable for its actions.
Myanmar, however, said it has made “significant progress towards political liberalization.” Its representative criticized the Special Rapporteur’s report for “lack[ing] objectivity and impartiality.” He said “there are no political prisoners in Myanmar… we are trying to transform Myanmar into a democratic country.”
China and Pakistan on behalf of the Islamic bloc welcomed “positive steps” taken by Myanmar, such as cooperation with the UN and the holding of a referendum in May.
The US, Canada and the EU, however, expressed deep concerns about the legitimacy of the upcoming referendum. The US recalled that “the referendum excludes opposition forces and/or minority groups.” Western countries also deeply regretted Myanmar’s refusal to accept a follow-up visit by the UN expert.
Russia condemned the critical tone of the Special Rapporteur’s report that “[did] not focus on the positive steps.” According to Russia, the situation in Myanmar is “far from being dramatic.” The Russian representative recommended the Council’s members and observers to be “polite” by using Burma’s official name, “Myanmar.”
Special rapporteur Pinheiro concluded by expressing strong doubts about the democratic nature of the upcoming referendum, to take place only months after massive government repression.
“Visible, substantial and exponential violations of human rights” in North Korea
The Special Rapporteur on North Korea concluded that overall demilitarization was unsuccessful and that civil and political rights were severely curtailed. The UN expert urged the international community to address impunity in the country.
“Human rights violations are visible, substantial and exponential,” said Muntarbhorn. There were massive violations of civil and political rights, collective punishment, torture and guilt by association including on women, public executions, non-respect of the rights of the child and the elderly, and considerable violence.
North Korea’s representative then took the floor to call for immediate termination of the expert’s mandate. “The report of the Special Rapporteur represents Western forces seeking to overthrow the social system,” he said. “The report has no relevance with human rights.”
Cuba said the mandate was “part of the Axis of Evil reference of the Bush administration” and urged the council to end it.
Syria called for ending all country mandates, including the one for North Korea. “This naming and shaming does not help to promote human rights.” (This has not prevented Syria from introducing or supporting several name-and-shame resolutions against Israel during this session.)
The U.S. said North Korea and Myanmar remain among the “world’s worst” regimes, and urged the Council to renew the mandate to improve the lives of North Koreans.
Similarly, Japan, which is co-sponsoring the resolution on the situation in North Korea together with the EU, asked Pyongyang to address the underlying causes for the exodus of its people. The Council will vote on whether to renew the at the end of the month.
To read the official UN meeting summary, click here.
To watch the live webcast of the Council, click here.