Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference in Yangon on July 21, 2017. Myanmar has accused her of being biased in her reports and want her replaced. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)
Myanmar’s government has asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to replace the country’s special rapporteur on human rights because it claims she is biased.
Kyaw Moe Tun, permanent representative of Myanmar to the U.N., said Myanmar is obliged to discontinue its cooperation with Yanghee Lee because of her failure to comply with the code of conduct and her clear lack of impartiality.
“Every independent mandate holder or mechanism created by the council must strictly adhere to the principles of independence, impartiality and integrity,” Kyaw Moe Tun said during an interactive dialogue at the council on March 11.
“It is also equally important for a mandate holder to avoid any harmful acts such as biased reports or non-constructive statements that will affect the prevailing social cohesion and unity in a country.”
Myanmar has barred Lee from the country since December 2017.
The special rapporteur’s mandate requires two visits to Myanmar a year to report to the Human Rights Council and the U.N. General Assembly. She has visited six times since taking up the role in June 2014.
Lee, who presented her latest report to the 47-member body in Geneva on March 11, has highlighted concerns in Myanmar including abuses linked to the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State in August 2017 following Myanmar’s military crackdown.
She said there was “nothing to indicate that conditions have improved for the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar” as the deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh expires in a few months.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to send the first batch of more than 2,000 refugees back home last November, but the move was delayed as many refused to return out of fear for their safety.
Calls for prosecution at ICC
Lee has appealed for the crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the U.N. Security Council. “Victims must not be forced to wait in the purgatory of international inaction,” she said.
ICC officials visited Bangladesh from March 6-11. It said in a statement on March 11 that the “independent and impartial preliminary examination” of the situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar is ongoing and will follow its course.
“A preliminary examination is not an investigation but an assessment of the Rome Statute criteria to decide whether an investigation into the situation at hand is warranted,” the statement said.
The ICC only has jurisdiction over crimes committed by states who are a part of the Rome Statute, of which Myanmar is not a member. Only the Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC for further criminal investigation.
However, judges last year ruled that the court still has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh is a member of the court.
A U.N. fact-finding mission report found that Myanmar's military committed four of the five acts constituting genocide against the Rohingya. It said military chief Min Aung Hlaing and five other senior generals must be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes against humanity.
Myanmar’s military has denied atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine and insisted its clearance operations were justified to root out Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militants who attacked border posts in August 2017.