March 23, 2015
Today, 23 March 2015, UNPO submitted three reports to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the occasion of its 23rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Session scheduled to take place in October/November 2015 during which the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar are under review. The three reports focus on the main human rights violations occurring in the countries, with a special emphasis on the situation of minority indigenous groups.
The first report is a joint submission with the Initiative pour la Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste (IRA-Mauritania) with a particular focus on the violations suffered by the Haratin people. The second report analyses the structural and institutional discrimination impeding the ability of the Batwa indigenous community residing in Rwanda from enjoying their fundamental human rights. The last report puts emphasis on the human rights abuses endured by the Chin people in the context of Myanmar.
While from a legal point of view the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has over the past few years taken commendable measures towards ending slavery, it seems that in practice there are little to no significant signs of improvement in the routine violations of the Haratin’s rights. Although there are measures in place to address some of the consequences of slavery, political will to combat the root causes is largely lacking, particularly as the Government continuously denies the very existence of slavery.
The institutionalized discrimination faced by the Haratin prevents them from recovering their freedom, as they are economically dependent on those who enslave them. Those who attempt to fight pacifically for human rights in Mauritania are often imprisoned and suffer unacceptable treatment in detention centres. Freedom of assembly and association is still not guaranteed by the Mauritanian Government.
UNPO and IRA-Mauritania compiled some recommendations to the Mauritanian Government, among which:
1. Allow an independent investigation mission to collect detailed data on the nature and incidence of slavery in Mauritania in order to make possible the monitoring of efforts to eradicate slavery;
2. Urgently run public awareness-raising campaigns in order to change the public attitude towards slavery across the different levels of society;
3. Take urgent measures to promote a higher representation of the marginalized Haratin ethnic group, including women, in the Government, Parliament, Judiciary and other public institutions.
The second UPR report puts the emphasis on the Batwa’s precarious human rights situation in Rwanda. The 1994 genocide has led the Rwandan Government to put a ban on ethnic identification. This policy affects all areas of the Batwa’s lives and leads to the denial of their existence as a separate community and of their most fundamental human rights. The Batwa also suffer from land grabbing, leading both to an infringement of their cultural rights – their culture being closely linked to their environment – and to economic dependency and impoverishment. Discrimination against the Batwa is both societal and Governmental, as the Batwa are absent from decision-making and governing structures, debilitating their ability to influence policy.
UNPO addressed some recommendations to the Rwandan Government, among which:
1. Allow the Batwa to be identified as a distinct ethnic group and allow them to form organizations using their own means of self-identification, so as to allow their communities to be specifically targeted by poverty reduction projects, cultural preservation initiatives and community learning schemes;
2. Ensure full representation of the Batwa community in Government and other public institutions, in compliance with the Rwandan Constitution
3. Consult the Batwa before taking any measures that may affect their lives;
4. Adopt measures to address the severe poverty of the Batwa caused by the Government resettlement policy, including the provision of vocational training and micro-finance schemes;
5. Build schools closer to the Batwa communities and develop a curriculum adapted to their way of life that gives the right consideration to the culture, history and language of the community.
As a consequence of 50 years of military rule, one third of the population of Myanmar lived below the poverty line in 2005. In the Chin State, the poverty rate is the highest of the country. Even though Myanmar has signed and ratified several of the most important international human rights treaties, its compliance with them, especially with regards to the situation in Chin State, raise significant concerns. In addition, accessing information from Chin State is extremely difficult, due to the fact that the area is very isolated and the infrastructure very poor.
Although Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and his representatives described the human rights violations in the country as ‘past mistakes’, the Government has failed to conduct any fully independent or impartial investigation into these violations. Ethnic and religious minorities still face serious human rights violations under the current authorities and in particular the Christian Chin people still face violations of religious freedom, and have fallen victim to forced labour, sexual violence, and extra-judicial killings.
UNPO urges the Government of Myanmar to consider the following recommendations:
1. Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights (ICECSR), as well as other relevant human rights treaties to which it is not a party;
2. Refrain from adopting the proposed ‘Religious Conversion Law’ or the remainder of the so-called “Pyidaungsu Hluttaw” plan;
3. Reform its Constitution, which currently discriminates between different religions and especially against minorities;
You can access the reports here: