UN Human Rights Council: ICJ highlights concerns about the grave human rights situation in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) convened today in Geneva for the start of its 54th session. The ICJ actively participated in this first day delivering statements on three situations in which gross and systematic violations of human rights are committed: Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. These situations require a sustained attention by the international community, including within the HRC, and more robust measures to ensure accountability for these violations, some of which are likely to constitute crimes under international law.

You can find the specific comments and asks of the ICJ in the following statements:

Oral Statement of the ICJ on the report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

“Mr. President,

The ICJ commends the IIMM for taking important steps in the last year a) to address significant witness and protection issues in the region, b) to strengthen civil society engagement and dialogue, and c) to prioritize investigations of crimes against persons from marginalized groups. The ICJ encourages the IIMM to continue in this vein and strengthen such efforts.

In addition, the ICJ would like to bring attention to the deteriorating human rights and security situation in each of Myanmar’s neighboring States which complicates the work of the IIMM and frustrates efforts to protect victims and witnesses seeking to contribute to accountability efforts. The authorities in India, Thailand, and Bangladesh have a responsibility to ensure the protection of Myanmar refugees in these areas, and State action in this regard has been insufficient. Further, despite multiple calls by this Council, access to border States is extremely limited to the IIMM notwithstanding large Myanmar populations trapped at each of these borders.

The ICJ appeals to the Council to reiterate in the strongest terms States’ responsibility to protect Myanmar refugees in their territory, the imperative of allowing access to the IIMM to border regions of neighboring States of Myanmar, and to call on all States to work with the IIMM and civil society to formulate protection measures for victims and witnesses who are actively needing to evade expanding violence in the region, including on an individual and urgent basis.”


Oral Statement of the ICJ in the Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka

“Mr. President,

The ICJ welcomes OHCHR’s wide-ranging report on Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s persistently grave human rights situation is further exacerbated by the country’s worst ever economic crisis that continues to result in shortages of food and essential medicines, and in ‘sharply increasing poverty levels’, and in widespread violations of the rights to food and health, among others.

Domestic transitional justice initiatives have repeatedly failed due to a lack of political will, more deeply entrenching impunity and exacerbating victims’ distrust in the system. Recent efforts to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Mechanism are ill-conceived and appear designed to forestall international scrutiny.

This distrust occurs in the context of heightened military involvement in civilian activities, including and the use of the State agents and religious figures to intimidate persons from minority communities in the North and East provinces. The families of the disappeared continue to protest State inaction following the discovery of multiple mass graves, including in Mullaitivu where the final stages of the internal armed conflict took place.

Considering Sri Lankan authorities demonstrated inability and unwillingness to guarantee accountability, particularly for crimes under international law, we welcome the steps taken by OHCHR’s Sri Lanka accountability project. The ICJ supports the High Commissioner’s recommendation to all member States to advance accountability through all available means including extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction.

I thank you.”


Oral Statement of the ICJ on the Oral Update of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan

“Mr. President,

The most recent report of the Special Rapporteur has highlighted a distressing surge in human rights abuses in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Of particular concern is the systemic discrimination facing women and girls, which likely amounts to a crime against humanity of gender persecution. Additionally, unlawful killings, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, along with other widespread and systematic violations, including against minority communities, persist with alarming impunity.

The dire human rights situation in Afghanistan underscores the need to dramatically strengthen accountability efforts internationally for gross and systematic human rights violations and abuses, including crimes under international law.

It is imperative that the Human Rights Council takes immediate and decisive action to address these serious crimes and ensure that those responsible are held accountable. The ICJ joins a coalition of Afghan civil society in calling on the Council to establish an independent investigative mechanism for alleged violations and abuses of human rights amounting to crimes under international law, including against women and girls; to collect, consolidate, and analyze evidence of such violations and abuses.

The ICJ also calls on the Council to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur providing adequate resources, and to ensure meaningful follow-up regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.”


For more information, contact:

Sandra Epal Ratjen, ICJ UN Representative and Senior Legal Adviser, e: sandra.epal@icj.org

Raquel Saavedra, ICJ Legal Adviser, e: raquel.saavedra@icj.org