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Rohingya Muslims in Burma Continue to Face Discrimination and Structural Human Rights Violations
March 17, 2015

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper

28th Session of the Human Rights Council

March 16, 2015 – Geneva

The United States expresses strong support and gratitude to Ms. Yanghee Lee for her work and reporting as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar over the past year.  The Special Rapporteur’s reporting is an invaluable source of expert analysis on human rights issues in Myanmar.  We welcome your recent visit to Myanmar and findings from the visit.

We reiterate our serious concern about the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State.  Members of the Rohingya Muslim community continue to face systemic discrimination and structural human rights violations.  The recent announcement that temporary registration cards or “white cards” will be invalidated on March 31 is troubling.   We are concerned because the government has not yet articulated a plan for issuing alternative documentation or assessing citizenship for current white card holders.  This decision likely reduces political participation by white card holders who had previously been allowed to vote.  There are also reports of human rights violations and abuses being committed by security forces, including arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment in detention, as well as rape and sexual violence.

Question 1:

  • What are your recommendations for preventing violence, holding perpetrators to account, and promoting tolerance in Rakhine State?  What steps should the government take to address the root causes of conflict between the Rakhine and Rohingya communities?

Question 2:

  • Four controversial bills (concerning interfaith marriage, religious conversion, population control, and monogamy) were tabled in parliament in January.  The international community has expressed concern that, if enacted, the four bills could significantly restrict enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief across Myanmar.  They also could be used to discriminate specifically against women.  Civil society members seeking to engage in the debate have been subject to harassment or threats.  What can the international community do to further discourage the passage of these bills?

Question 3:

  • We are concerned by the ongoing, systemic violence against local populations, particularly women, in conflict areas such as Kachin State.  For example, shortly after your last visit, two Kachin schoolteachers were raped and killed in northern Shan State.  There is a history of violence against women and girls by security forces.  What steps has the government taken to ensure accountability and rule of law in Myanmar?

Question 4:

  • We are concerned by the increasing trend of arbitrary arrests and sentencing of journalists and civil society activists.  Civil society actors and journalists have been subject to intimidation, threats, and attacks.  And the government continues to use outdated legislations to criminalize or impede their activities.  What further steps should the government take to fully protect the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, including journalists, political activists, students, and other civil society actors?

The United States will continue to support the people and government of Myanmar in its aspirations for fully enjoying human rights and undertaking democratic reform.

Thank you.