UN expert for restraint in security drives in Rakhine state

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. Photo Courtesy: United Nations

A United Nations human rights expert has expressed deep concern over reports that an army battalion has flown into Rakhine State in western Myanmar to help local authorities boost security in the region.

“This development, which reportedly took place yesterday, is a cause for major concern,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee said today.

She said, “The Government [Myanmar] must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine State.”

She expressed her concern in a press statement available on the website of the United Nations Human Rights Office – OHCHR.

Lee said, “I am particularly reminded of the allegations of serious human rights violations which followed security force operations in the aftermath of attacks against three border guard police facilities in Maungdaw and Rathedaung in October and further clashes in November [last year].”

“I have noted from the summary report of the investigation commission for Maungdaw in Rakhine State, publically released last Sunday, that many allegations of human rights violations are being investigated or have been recommended for further investigation,” the expert highlighted.

“The Presidential Commission admitted it was not able to verify many of these alleged violations or crimes including torture, rape and arson, and asked that these be properly addressed by the relevant authorities,” Lee said.

“There have been increasing reports of incidents affecting the local population, including the killings of six Mro villagers on August 3,” she said. “I share the concern of the Myanmar Government and its people regarding the safety and security of those living in Rakhine State in the light of these incidents.”

The special rapporteur acknowledged the Rakhine State’s responsibility to provide security and protect people from attacks by extremists, but said this responsibility had to cover all residents, and the authorities could not afford more security to some than others.

The expert reminded that the use of force must always be in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality to ensure full respect for human live. “Any measures security forces take or any operations they undertake to secure the areas concerned must be carried out in line with international human rights norms and standards,” Lee stressed.

The expert’s call has been endorsed by the UN the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.