The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Friday called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arbitrarily detained in the Feb. 1 coup in Myanmar, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
At a special session, the 47-strong HRC passed a resolution without any opposition.
The resolution called “upon the Myanmar military and other security forces and authorities to take steps immediately to protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, religion or belief, association and peaceful assembly.”
It also called for the immediate and permanent lifting of internet restrictions, telecommunication and social media, and the avoidance of any further violations of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.
The resolution also demanded a “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need, including through the re‑establishment of United Nations relief flights.”
While not voting against the resolution, Bolivia, China, the Philippines, Russia and Venezuela “dissociated” from it, saying it is an internal matter of Myanmar.
At the session, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews called on the UN Security Council to evaluate sanctions such as an “arms embargo and travel ban” against the country.
‘A profound setback’
Nada al-Nashif, the deputy high commissioner for human rights, at the start of the debate called by the EU and the UK, said: “The seizure of power by the Myanmar military earlier this month constitutes a profound setback for the country, after a decade of hard-won gains in its democratic transition.”
The gains made by Myanmar had been reviewed by the HRC less than three weeks earlier in its Universal Periodic Review.
“The military authorities must not be allowed to exacerbate the situation of the Rohingya people, after the extreme violence and decades of discrimination that they have endured,” the HRC official said.
U Myint Thu, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said: “In light of the post-election irregularities and the following complex situation in the country, Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military] was compelled to take the State responsibilities, in accordance with the State Constitution.”
Rui Macieira, Portugal’s envoy to the UN in Geneva, said, however, the military takeover threatens to reverse 10 years of democratic transition.
The US made its first statement since it announced on Monday it would re-engage with the HRC as an observer after the administration of former President Donald Trump withdrew from the body in 2018.
Mark Cassayre, charge d’affaires of the US mission in Geneva, said Washington condemns the military’s coup against “the democratically elected government of Myanmar.”
Urging targeted sanctions against coup leaders, Cassayre called on HRC members to “urge the military to immediately release all those unjustly detained, including politicians, civil society representatives, journalists, foreign nationals, and human rights defenders.”
The HRC does not have the power to impose sanctions on individuals or states, which the UN Security Council can do.