Myanmar: ensuring human rights and the integrity of elections during the COVID-19 pandemic

At the UN Human Rights Council, the ICJ today addressed the need for upcoming elections in Myanmar to respect both civil and political rights and democratic processes, and the right to health.

The oral statement, delivered in an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, who recently assumed the mandate, read as follows:

“The ICJ welcomes you, Mr Special Rapporteur, as you begin your mandate.

Since late August, COVID-19 cases have increased throughout Myanmar. The ICJ stresses the need to safeguard the integrity of the upcoming general elections and respect for political rights, in a manner that also protects the right to health of all persons, consistent with international human rights law and standards.

The ICJ urges Myanmar’s Union Election Commission to consider appropriate alternatives to in-person voting en masse on a single election day, to avoid voters risking their health or foregoing the chance to vote. Stay-at-home orders have compelled voters and electoral candidates to rely on social media for political campaigning. However, restricting Internet access to 2G connectivity in parts of Rakhine and Chin states significantly limits online engagement of affected communities. This can hamper their civil and political rights. Clashes between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed organizations in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states also continue.

Reports of Rohingya persons who were not allowed to stand as candidates for election, underscore the urgent need to amend Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which can disenfranchise ethnic minorities from political participation.

Mr Special Rapporteur, we invite you to elaborate on how the mandate plans to monitor the particular situation around the elections.”

For more information, contact: Kingsley Abbott.

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