Myanmar: ICJ presents to Human Rights Forum on religious freedom and rights in crisis.

Legal Advisers from the International Commission of Jurists addressed a locally-initiated forum on human rights held in Yangon in December.

Participants who attended from across the country heard from more than twenty presenters and panelists, speaking on topics including: freedom of religion and belief; human rights in armed conflict; freedom of assembly and expression; and economic, social and cultural rights.

The ICJ’s International Legal Adviser Sean Bain joined a panel discussing ongoing human rights violations in areas of conflict and insecurity.

In November the ICJ published a report, “Questions and Answers on Human Rights Law in Rakhine State,” which lays out applicable national and international law in the human rights crisis there, and steps necessary to improve the situation.

Sean Bain emphasized that rights violations against Rohingya Muslims should also be examined with reference to the overall patterns of violations throughout the country, too often perpetrated by security forces with impunity against peoples of many ethnicities and religions, particularly in conflict areas.

On a panel discussion on religious freedom, Advocate Daw Zar Li Aye outlined relevant provisions in national and international law that protect freedom of religion and belief.

She noted, however, that in practice ambiguous and vague provisions of national laws have been applied in a discriminatory manner against members of minority groups.

Zar Li Aye also suggested that any legislative amendments incorporate clearly stated objectives to protect religious freedom, in line with the State’s international law obligations.

Many participants in the forum noted the emergence of a backlash against the language of human rights in recent months, linked to the crisis in northern Rakhine State.

Asked how human rights defenders in Myanmar may continue their work in this context, Sean Bain responded, “To be truly effective in protecting human rights for all we must stay true to our values and not accept violations against any people in any context.”

The ICJ’s involvement in this Forum is part of ongoing engagement with civil society groups in Myanmar.

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