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http://www.icj.org/myanmar-icj-organizes-universal-periodic-review-diplomatic-dialogue/

The ICJ today organized a diplomatic dialogue, in advance of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with ambassadors and high-level diplomatic representatives, to share the state of human rights in Myanmar.

The event also aimed at working on specific, actionable recommendations to the government to effectively address human rights violations and provide redress.

With an improper regulatory regime for investment and environmental protection, and with investment coming into a legal vacuum in Myanmar, economic development has risked undermining human rights protection and access to remedy, especially impacting on economic, social and cultural rights.

In turn, this situation has created conditions for further human rights abuses in Myanmar.

In its UPR stakeholder submission, the ICJ drew the attention of the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Working Group on the UPR, and that of the HRC itself, to the organization’s concerns about the independence of the judiciary and legal profession, the lack of legislation adequately protecting human rights and the environment, discriminatory laws targeting women and minorities, and the writ of habeas corpus in Myanmar.

While it is the judiciary’s responsibility to provide remedy for human rights abuses and bring perpetrators to justice, Myanmar’s judiciary faces continued challenges to assert its independence from the other branches of government that interfere and influence its role.

A severe lack of resources has led to structural problems, crippling the legal profession and leaving several judges unfamiliar with court procedures and jurisprudence.

The quartet of laws to “protect race and religion” – clearly discriminatory of religious and gender grounds – are hastily being signed into law, even though they fail to accord with international human rights principles, including Myanmar’s legal obligations as a state party to the CEDAW and CRC.

The 23rd session of the United Nations Working Group will meet to next review Myanmar on 6 November 2015.

The diplomatic dialogue aimed to provide the international human rights organizations with an opportunity to reiterate their key UPR recommendations and provide any relevant updates since the stakeholder submissions; and for all participants to discuss plans of multilateral lobbying ahead of the UPR Working Group session in Geneva.

Danish Ambassador Peter Lysholt-Hansen hosted the event at the Nordic House. Members of the diplomatic community who attended the dialogue included those from USA, the EU, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia.

The ICJ was joined in a panel by other international human rights organizations – the International Bar Association, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International – who all presented on various pressing human rights issues confronting Myanmar.

ICJ’s diplomatic dialogue will complement a similar event to be held in Yangon later this year, which will be organized by the UPR-Info with local non-governmental organizations.

The ICJ’s UPR stakeholder submission for Myanmar can be found here.

A briefer on ICJ’s specific, actionable recommendations to the HRC, and the Working Group can be found here.

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The ICJ conducted a two-day workshop on “Business and Human Rights” in Kyauk Phyu, Rakhine State on 30-31 May. The event was attended by 40 participants representing civil society organizations in Sittwe, Kyauk Phyu, Ann and Ponna Kyaunn. 

It also included members from the township and district courts, township police force and members of parliament, focused on investment in Rakhine state in the absence of credible and transparent mechanisms to prevent human rights abuses.

The workshop occurred against the backdrop of myriad longstanding human rights issues in Rakhine State, including the humanitarian crisis confronting the state’s Rohingya population.

The State has also witnessed ongoing government repression of the State’s ethnic Rakhine population in response to demands for autonomy and their opposition to unregulated development of the State’s ample natural resources, including extensive gas deposits, at the expense of their livelihoods and rights.

The development of gas fields in the State has been fraught with human rights violations, including of forced labour and forced eviction of thousands of farmers from their lands.

As discussed during the workshop, since Myanmar’s relative opening up, the government has continued to invite and approve of foreign investors to develop resource extraction projects in Rakhine State, while locals resist the potential harmful effects of such projects on their livelihoods, properties and environment.

In 2013, hundreds of villagers protested against the adverse impacts of the Shwe gas pipeline construction – a large scale natural gas project developed by Daewoo International of South Korea in a joint venture with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

Daewoo has once again ventured into Rakhine State, proposing a coal power plant in Kyaukphyu township, that could have adverse effects on the economic and environmental landscapes in local communities.

During ICJ’s previous trips to Sittwe and Kyaukphyu, local civil society activists had asked for information on responsible investment and national and international standards relating to displacement, land confiscations, and environmental and social impact assessments.

In the first day of the workshop, U Kyaw Min San, ICJ’S National Legal Adviser, led the discussion on fundamental citizen rights guaranteed in Myanmar legislation as well as an analysis of the land laws in Myanmar.

Daniel Aguirre, ICJ’s International Legal Adviser, gave an overview of international human rights law and the role of States and business corporations in protecting and respecting economic, social and cultural rights.

Vani Sathisan, ICJ’s International Legal Adviser, provided a legal analysis of Myanmar’s law on Special Economic Zones (SEZ), highlighting how the law fails to guarantee the protection of human rights and the environment while providing tax reliefs and exemptions, as well as land leases, to win over investors and developers.

On the second day, Daw Tin Tin Wai, Private Sector Policy Officer from Oxfam GB and a Campaign Officer from EarthRights International shared their experiences from Dawei SEZ and Thilawa SEZ, respectively.

They shared that lack of consultations with local communities and large-scale land confiscations through intimidation and threats occurring in the two SEZs reflected flaws in the government and judiciary to protect human rights and provide for access to remedy.

The workshop included a group discussion among the participants focusing on the role of local and international non-governmental organizations in Kyauk Phyu, Ponna Kyunn and Sittwe, the current situation of Kyauk Phyu SEZ and Ponna Kyunn industry zone and land issues related to such development projects.

Hayman Oo, ICJ’s Legal Researcher, facilitated the discussion, which served to highlight the specific themes around which the CSOs were organizing their advocacy and research.

At the closing dinner, U Kyaw Min San extended the ICJ’s appreciation to all the local CSOs for their participation and active engagement, and reiterated the ICJ’s support to work with community-driven organizations to work on recommendations to the government and businesses on transparency, prior consent and consultation, and compensations, and to push for a more rights-compliant approach to investments in Kyaukphyu.

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http://www.icj.org/myanmar-icj-held-business-and-human-rights-workshop-in-rakhine-state/

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