Myanmar Debate Upends UN Meeting 06/21 06:02
The U.N.'s top human rights body opened its latest session on Monday and was
immediately embroiled in a debate over the representation of Myanmar, where a
military takeover toppled the civilian government in February.
GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N.'s top human rights body opened its latest session on
Monday and was immediately embroiled in a debate over the representation of
Myanmar, where a military takeover toppled the civilian government in February.
Western countries said two planned debates about the human rights situation
in Myanmar during the Human Rights Council's 3-1/2 week session should go
forward, even without the country represented. But China, the Philippines and
Venezuela insisted it should be on hand.
The showdown delayed the opening statement to the council from the U.N.
human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, who aired concerns about human rights in
places like China, Mexico, Russia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia's Tigray region. She
said she hoped to address Myanmar and other rights issues in places like
Ukraine, Nicaragua and Iran later during the session.
Myanmar hasn't been represented at the U.N. in Geneva since the civilian
government's ambassador left after the junta took over. The U.N. General
Assembly's credentials committee is facing a decision about which
representation of Myanmar will be recognized.
"If we exclude the country concerned, this is not fair," said Ambassador
Chen Xu of China, urging the debates on Myanmar to be put off until the
council's next session in September.
But Western envoys insisted the rights situation in Myanmar was urgent,
notably over alleged rights violations such as those suffered by the Muslim
Rohingya minority and -- more recently -- protesters against the military
takeover who have faced a deadly crackdown.
"We recognize that we are dealing with an unusual set of circumstances that
have not arisen before," said Rita French, Britain's international ambassador
for human rights. "(But) the reason why two dialogues were mandated just a few
months ago is because there is a human rights crisis in Myanmar."
Envoys agreed to maintain the council's schedule that includes the two
debates on Myanmar. But the council president, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan
of Fiji, acknowledged her office would continue to assess whether they would
proceed, and said the plans could still change.
Pressure has been growing against Myanmar's military. In a rare move, the
U.N. General Assembly on Friday condemned the takeover and called for an arms
embargo against the country in a resolution that demanded the restoration of
the country's democratic transition.
Bachelet, in her remarks, also expressed concerns about the arrest of 107
people under a new security law in Hong Kong, saying a first trial expected
later this week would be an "important test of independence for Hong Kong's
She called on Russia to uphold "civil and political rights" and said she was
"dismayed" by new measures that could curb people's right to express critical
views and take part in Russia's parliamentary election in September.
She noted a Russian court decision that labeled an anti-corruption
foundation led by opposition figure Alexei Navalny as an "extremist
organization" and urged Russian authorities "to end the arbitrary practice" of
labelling individuals, journalists and NGOs "as extremist foreign agents or
On the situation in Ethiopia's Tigray region, she derided "continued reports
of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights
violations and abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict,"
including by Ethiopian government forces.
"Credible reports indicate that Eritrean soldiers are still operating in
Tigray and continue to perpetrate violations of human rights and humanitarian
law," she said, referring to troops from neighboring Eritrea. She said 350,000
people are threatened by famine.
Since mid-May, her office has had staffers in Tigray as part of a joint
investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission that is expected to
finish in August.