Open Letter in Support of Continuing Recognition of Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative at the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

We, the undersigned, representing a broad movement of 358 Myanmar and international civil society organizations, urge you to ensure that the current Permanent Representative (PR) of Myanmar to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, retains his position as Myanmar’s representative to the UN for the upcoming 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled to begin on 14 September 2021.

Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun is the incumbent representative of Myanmar and he represented Myanmar throughout the 75th session of the UNGA after his credentials were accepted by the Credentials Committee in November 2020 and approved by the UNGA on 1 December (A/RES/75/19). He was appointed as Myanmar’s PR to the UN by the democratically elected government of Myanmar, which had held office since 2016. His credentials were renewed by the current duly elected government of Myanmar.

The new government, which won in a free, fair and credible general election in November 2020, was due to be formed in February 2021 and take office in March. The general election, which was observed by accredited international election monitoring bodies including the Asian Network for Free Elections and the Carter Center, certified that the election reflected the will of the people of Myanmar. However, on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military launched a coup, physically prevented the scheduled session of the new parliament and forcibly detained elected members of Parliaments.

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Commemoration and Accountability: Recognizing Genocide and Ethnic Persecution

Description:

In commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Rohingya Genocide, the Global Justice Center and the U.S. Campaign for Burma invite you to join the discussion on the need to recognize the Rohingya genocide and draw on the connection to the atrocities suffered by other ethnic groups, as well as holding the Burmese military accountable for their crimes against humanity.

Participants:

  • Aung Myo Min, National Unity Government
  • Sharifah Shakirah, Rohingya Women Development Network
  • Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center

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Myanmar’s Garment Workers Are Fighting for Freedom. It’s Time We Fought with Them.

Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Courtney Vice.

Since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’état on February 1, garment worker union members across the country have stood at the forefront of protests and marches. Thanks to their activism, there is now a long overdue spotlight on their struggle, both as workers and as allies in the movement against the coup. Yet, they are not only fighting for an end to military dictatorship; they are also fighting for the elimination of systemic harassment and violence that has plagued their lives long before the coup.

Myanmar’s antiquated labor system has created a breeding ground for this abuse. International sanctions were dropped in 2016 as Myanmar moved toward democracy and started to set its own labor standards. After the removal of these sanctions, the garment industry boomed. Western brands seeking cheap labor flocked to the country, setting up numerous factories. In 2018, the garment industry accounted for 31 percent of all of Myanmar’s exports.

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UNHRC Side Event on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Description:

In many conflicts around the world today, civilians and non-combatants alike continue to suffer at the hands of parties to armed conflict. The ongoing, persistent, and widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflicts as a tactic of war is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. It is an incontrovertible truth that women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence. This is especially true for those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and who are from marginalized groups such as refugees and migrants, internally displaced persons, indigenous women, and persons living with disabilities. Governments, international organisations, and civil society must stand in solidarity with survivors not just in words, but also through actions by actively defending their human rights and agency. As part of these efforts, Canada is organising a roundtable on the theme of “Promoting Credible, Ethical, and Transparent Information-Sharing by Human Rights Defenders to Support Justice for Victims and Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV).” This side event will take place on the margins of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 47th Regular Session.

Participants:

  • Abid Shamdeen, ExecutiveDirector, Nadia’s Initiative
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Jina Moore, Editor In Chief, Guernica Magazine
  • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Ethiopian Human Rights Defender Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Present Demands to International Community

Description:

Grassroots women’s rights activists from Burma/Myanmar spoke for a press briefing on the military coup and its disproportionate impact on women. Occurring less than a week after UN Security Council and UN General Assembly action on the crisis in Burma/Myanmar, the briefing presented demands for the international community from the women of Burma, who have been a central target of military violence for decades.

The briefing featured activists with the Women’s League of Burma, Karenni National Women’s Organization, and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand. In the months since the February 1 military coup, these organizations have regularly challenged international bodies like ASEAN to center the challenges and demands of women in Myanmar.

Participants:

  • Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary, Women’s League of Burma
  • Moon Nay Li, Advocacy and Information Officer, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  • Representative (unnamed for security purposes), Karenni National Women’s Organization
  • Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development
  • (Moderator) Grant Shubin, Legal Director, Global Justice Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Disappointed with International Community

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar demanded greater accountability from ASEAN and the international community in their response to the recent military coup in the country. Since the coup, the armed and security forces have waged systemic gender-based violence and sexual violence against women, especially within the ethnic community. 

Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “Women Human Rights Defenders are being actively targeted by the military regime. There are chilling reports of female detainees being subjected to harrowing sexual assault, torture, physical and verbal abuse, and intimidation. The military’s use of rape as a weapon of war and sexual violence is a tool to demoralize and destroy ethnic communities. Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern. “

Several documented cases recently have shown large-scale violence against women including forcing them to exchange sex for removing their names from the warrant list, sexual assault in custody, and other forms of sexual and verbal abuse. There are also growing attacks on women human rights defenders for leading the resistance against Myanmar's military. At least 895 women have been detained so far and 56 confirmed cases of women and girls being killed, though the numbers could be higher.

“One-third of the Karenni population in Karenni State has been forced to flee their villages due to fighting between Burmese army and people resistance groups. Displaced women and children are at increased risk of being victims of human rights violations. We demand the international community to take immediate actions against the military, and provide access to humanitarian aid for the IDPs, in partnership with local ethnic service providers”, said a representative from Karenni National Women’s Organisation.

Moon Nay Li,  Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT)shared, “The military coup is having the deepest impact on those who are already marginalized due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed  Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time, they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to health, legal, and social services.”

On 18 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Burma/Myanmar with no participation from women leaders or activists on the ground or women’s rights organizations from the country. The resolution also saw a split vote from ASEAN nations with at least four countries abstaining from voting.

“The failure of regional processes like ASEAN in holding the military regime accountable in Burma has been extremely disappointing. Women have historically led the resistance on the ground and hold the key to restoring peace and justice in the country. Absence of their voices and leadership in UN processes will only lead to the repetition of injustice and failure of the international community in fulfilling the purposes of the UN Charter ”, said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD).

“It is long overdue for the international community to move statements of concern and take real action. Burma’s military is notorious for grave human rights violations, most notably using sexual and gender-based violence as a tool of oppression, and its operations since the coup are no exception. The current crisis was born out of the military’s complete impunity for international crimes, and accountability for ongoing and past abuses must be part of the solution”, said Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center.

For more than seven decades, the military has waged war in several ethnic states of Burma/Myanmar. It is time to hold the military regime accountable by the international community and refer it to the International Criminal Court for these mass atrocities. Ensuring women’s voices, leadership and meaningful participation in all UN processes is the only way the international community can fulfil its obligation to the people of Burma/Myanmar.

The UN Leader Is Sworn In (Again); Myanmar’s Downhill Slide; the US Envoy’s Rising Star

Excerpt of Pass Blue that quotes GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

The UN General Assembly passed its first resolution addressing the Feb. 1, 2021 coup in Myanmar, with 119 in favor, 1 against (Belarus) and 36 abstentions. This resolution was voted on the same day the Security Council held a closed meeting on the country’s situation, revealing little about what occurred in the session and still not producing a resolution on the matter.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, said, in part, “The bright sides of the General Assembly’s resolution, including the call on all nations to prevent arms flows into Myanmar, are in stark contrast to the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action.”

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UN General Assembly Passes Resolution on Myanmar Coup

NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly today passed a resolution addressing the military coup in Myanmar. It is the first resolution from the general assembly since the coup on February 1.

This resolution comes on the same day of a closed-door briefing on Myanmar at the UN Security Council. The Council has issued several statements on the coup, but has yet to pass any resolution.

Grant Shubin, legal director of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“A resolution from the General Assembly is a necessary and positive step for the international community. But just like with Security Council actions that precede it, today’s resolution does not go far enough to meet the demands of Myanmar’s people.

“The bright sides of the General Assembly’s resolution, including the call on all nations to prevent arms flows into Myanmar, are in stark contrast to the Security Council’s failure to take decisive action.

“As the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council can no longer stand idly by while Myanmar’s military uses its decades-old playbook to commit widespread and systematic human rights violations. The time for closed meetings and toothless statements of concern is over.”

“The Security Council must finally do what women’s rights activists in Myanmar have been calling for for years — take concrete and decisive action to condemn the military and hold them accountable for international crimes committed against all of Myanmar’s people.”

The Ongoing Rohingya Genocide and Opportunities for International Justice in Post-Coup Myanmar

Description:

Since the February 1 military coup in Burma, there has been unprecedented widespread support for justice and accountability for military atrocities perpetrated against the people of Burma. This has included supportive statements from leaders within the pro-democracy National Unity Government (NUG). However, questions remain about how these new calls for accountability will complement and support ongoing efforts for international justice, which focus largely on abuses committed against the Rohingya.

During this online event, activists from Burma will give an update from the ground and international justice experts from around the world will share an update of the ongoing international justice processes against Burma at the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and in Argentinian courts through a Universal Jurisdiction case. Panellists will also share insight on how the NUG could work for international justice efforts to build more solidarity among all of Burma’s people, including the Rohingya and other major ethnic minorities.

Participants will include:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan (Moderator), President, Global Justice Center.
  • Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.
  • M. Arsalan Suleman, Foley Hoag, legal counsel to The Gambia in its case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.
  • Erin Rosenberg, International Legal Expert and former Legal Officer at the ICC Trust Fund for Victims.
  • Thinzar Shunlei Yi, Activist, Action Committee for Democracy Development .
  • Ambassador Stephen Rapp, Former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Distinguished Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

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Beyond the Coup in Myanmar: A Crisis Born from Impunity

Excerpt of Just Security op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Legal Director Grant Shubin.

In his first speech since illegally attempting a coup d’etat, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing told the people of Myanmar that, “no one is above the law.” He went on, “no one or no organization is above the national interest in state-building and nation-building.” But in reality, Min Aung Hlaing and indeed all of the military (Tatmadaw) are very much above the law in Myanmar.

Of the coup’s many potential causes, perhaps the most overt is that military leadership thought they could get away with it. The military’s constitutional insulation from civilian oversight and control, the failure thus far to hold them accountable for human rights abuses and international crimes, and even periodic cheerleading from the international community for a “democratic transition” emboldened the military into thinking that subverting the will of the people could be done without major consequence. To quote the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, “This crisis was born of impunity.”

After all, the military has been getting away with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, so why not a coup?

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Reversing the Coup is No Solution for Myanmar

Excerpt of The Diplomat op-ed authored by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

Almost as soon as news spread of the Myanmar military’s brazen coup on February 1, we began hearing calls for a “reversal” of the coup. Now, the international community’s efforts have focused on restoring the pre-coup status quo, as evidenced by the recent (and failed) ASEAN emergency summit.

These proposals and initiatives ignore the persistent demands from protestors and ethnic groups for a radical and fundamental shift in Myanmar. Perhaps most importantly, they fail to acknowledge that the rapidly deteriorating situation in Myanmar cannot be resolved with a return to the precarious pre-coup balance of power because it’s precisely this unsustainable framework that led to the coup in the first place.

Without a recognition of the need for a complete restructuring of the underlying political and legal system so that it grants ethnic groups a meaningful role and assures justice for the military’s past and present crimes, history will keep repeating itself and the people of Myanmar will continue to suffer.

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Press Conference: Joint Civil Society Appeal for Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan spoke at a press conference to announce a call to action from more than 200 nongovernmental organizations from around the world. The letter urges the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in order to pressure the military junta to stop killing unarmed protesters and end human rights abuses against those opposing military rule.

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Global Civil Society Statement: The UN Must Block Arms Sales to Myanmar

We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council to urgently impose a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar to help prevent further violations of human rights against peaceful protesters and others opposing military rule. In recent weeks, Myanmar security forces have killed hundreds of people, including dozens of children, merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Since the February 1, 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military junta has responded with increasing brutality to nationwide protests calling for the restoration of democratic civilian rule. As of May 4, security forces have killed at least 769 people, including 51 children as young as 5, and arbitrarily detained several thousand activists, journalists, civil servants, and politicians. Hundreds have been forcibly disappeared, the authorities unwilling to provide information on their well-being or where they are being held. Over the past few months, the military has demonstrated a callous disregard for human life that has driven its strategy for decades. In video footage from cities and towns across the country, soldiers can be seen shooting down protesters, including children, brutally beating medical aid workers, and firing shotguns into crowds of peacefully protesting doctors.

In addition to the latest violations of human rights, Myanmar’s security forces have a history of grave abuses against peaceful critics of the government and military, and war crimes and other international crimes against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups. Of particular note is the military's widely documented use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon against ethnic communities.

No government should sell a single bullet to the junta under these circumstances. Imposing a global arms embargo on Myanmar is the minimum necessary step the Security Council should take in response to the military’s escalating violence. Arms and materiel provided to Myanmar’s security forces are likely to be used by the security forces to commit abuses in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

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​​​​​​​200+ NGOs Call on UN Security Council to Impose Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar

NEW YORK — Over 200 nongovernmental organizations from around the world today called on the United Nations Security Council to immediately impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in response to the military coup and ensuing human rights abuses.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, issued the following statement:

“The urgency of a global arms embargo in Myanmar cannot be overstated. Myanmar’s military has long been one of the world’s most notorious perpetrators of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. Such violence has ramped up since the coup, with harrowing reports of torture and sexual violence against women and girl detainees. International arms sales fuel these ongoing military crimes and its past time UN Security Council members back up their rhetoric on women’s rights with concrete action.”

Open Letter to Secretary of State Blinken on the Public Health and Human Rights Crisis in Myanmar

To: Antony Blinken, Secretary of State

CC: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jeff Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator; Samantha Power, USAID Administrator Nominee

Secretary Blinken:

We write as concerned human rights organizations, humanitarian organizations, medical professional associations, labor organizations, and refugee rights organizations to urge you to take immediate additional actions to address the public health and human rights crisis in Myanmar.

It has now been two months since the Myanmar military executed a coup d’état to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government, prompting widespread peaceful protests demanding a return to democracy. The military’s security forces have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown defined by some of the worst human rights violations imaginable: unlawful and arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings. This includes the bloodiest crackdown yet: more than 110 civilians reportedly killed in just a few days by security forces, among them children as young as five years old.

Myanmar’s health care workers, in particular, have been systematically targeted by the military for participating in the civil disobedience movement and providing care to injured protestors.Many health care workers have been forced into hiding, kidnapped in night raids, or detained arbitrarily pursuant to spurious charges.More than 100 medical students and health care workers have reportedly been arrested since the start of the coup.

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Myanmar’s Coup Is Devastating for Women

Excerpt of Foreign Policy op-ed by GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan and GJC Special Counsel Michelle Onello.

The Myanmar military’s forceful takeover of the civilian government on Feb. 1, and its deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters who have marched in the streets ever since, are a dangerous setback for democracy and the rule of law in the country. But they’re especially devastating for women.

The coup, which ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, not only threatens to reverse the progress made over the past decade to ensure that women in Myanmar have more opportunities, power, and influence in society but also places an unaccountable military with a history of gender-based violence in control of every aspect of government. Beyond the direct threat this poses to women’s physical safety, this rule—if left unchecked—will reinvigorate Myanmar’s long history of patriarchal oppression.

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UN Security Council: Hold Myanmar Military Accountable for Violence Against Women

Hold Myanmar Military Accountable for Violence Against Women

Dear President and Members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council,

Marking the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we, Women’s Peace Network, and the undersigned organizations working for women’s rights and against gender-based violence, call upon the UN Security Council to hold the Myanmar military accountable for grievously violating the human rights of women. Since the military’s illegitimate seizure of power on February 1, the people of Myanmar have led nationwide mass movements to demand for the November 2020 election results to be respected, the 2008 Constitution to be abolished, a federal democratic union to be built with full equality and self-determination, and those arbitrarily detained and arrested to be released. Despite engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience, thousands of civilians, including women, have been brutally assailed by the regime’s tactics of violent assault, arbitrary detention, and extrajudicial killing. Given this military’s record of using sexual violence as a weapon of war, we fear that the country’s progress in enhancing the status of women is at risk now more than ever. We, members of the global women’s rights movement, now urgently join forces to amplify the people’s calls: the Myanmar military and security forces must be held to account for their brutality, and all impunity fueling their historical violation of women’s rights and international laws and norms must end.

Across Myanmar, the military continue to act in violation of the UN Charter and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. In over a month, the Myanmar military and security forces have indiscriminately fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters -- killing at least 20 women. Deploying armored vehicles along the country’s streets, male security forces have targeted women with batons and slingshots all while strategically wielding water cannons, tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets against other peaceful protesters. Throughout states and regions, the regime’s arbitrary detention and arrests of civilians have continued to rise as allegations of sexual assault and abuse across prisons have spread rampantly. If the Security Council and the international community do not take concrete action, we are concerned that the Myanmar military and security forces will continue to commit mass atrocities and act in contravention of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

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Obligation to Act: International Action and the Fight Against the Coup in Myanmar

Description:

While the country is still reeling from the Burmese military's illegitimate coup on February 1, the international community have launched a slate of new sanctions against military leaders amid public condemnations of the Tatmadaw's use of deadly violence against peaceful protests. Multiple questions about Burma's future remain unanswered, however, particularly as they relate to international support for justice and accountability, ethnic peace and the creation of a true democratic federal union, and the Rohingya genocide crisis.

During this online event, international justice experts from around the world will speak alongside civil society leaders from Burma to share their perspectives on how international and grassroots mobilization around ongoing international justice processes and mechanisms can contribute to a united and multi-ethnic anti-coup movement that ends the Burmese military dictatorship and its violent reign of impunity.

Panelists include:

  • Akila Radhakrishnan (Moderator), President of the Global Justice Center.
  • Tun Khin (President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK)
  • M. Arsalan Suleman (Foley Hoag, legal counsel to The Gambia in its case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice)
  • Naw May Oo (Activist and Advisor to the Karen National Union)
  • Thinzar Shunlei Yi (Activist, Action Committee for Democracy Development)
  • Tomas Quintana (Former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights on Myanmar, lead counsel in the current Universal Jurisdiction case in Argentina)

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