Joint NGO Statement: UN member states should act to pressure Myanmar to end crimes against humanity

28 September 2017

We, a global coalition of 88 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar‘s ethnic Rohingya population. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein have described the Myanmar security forces’ ongoing campaign against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State as ethnic cleansing. As more evidence emerges, it is clear that the atrocities committed by Myanmar state security forces amount to crimes against humanity. The United Nations and its member states need to take urgent action.

We urge UN delegations, especially those from the 114 countries committed to the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Code of Conduct, who made a pledge to support “timely and decisive action” to prevent or end the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, to immediately undertake efforts to adopt a resolution in the UN General Assembly addressing the situation, and call upon the UN Security Council to consider measures to be imposed on the Myanmar government.

Over 400,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into Bangladesh since August 25, when Myanmar security forces launched operations in response to coordinated attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine State. These operations, involving widespread killing, laying of landmines, looting, and arson targeting the Rohingya, have resulted in the mass destruction of more than 200 villages, according to satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony. Tens of thousands of people from other ethnic minorities have also been displaced as a result of the violence.

Strong condemnations by the UN and world leaders have not brought an end to Myanmar’s atrocities. In his opening statement to the Human Rights Council on September 11, al Hussein noted that in 2016 he “warned that the pattern of gross violations of the human rights of the Rohingya suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity.” Civil society organizations have warned that the campaign of Myanmar’s security forces against the Rohingya since August 25 amounts to crimes against humanity. It is crucial for UN members to take concrete action and place direct pressure on Myanmar’s military and civilian leaders.

The European Union, until recently, was the chief sponsor of an annual resolution on human rights in Myanmar at the General Assembly. Last year, the EU decided to stop the effort even in the midst of government violence against the Rohingya beginning in October 2016. Now, we urge members of the EU to work with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as other concerned states to jointly revive this resolution as a means of pursuing decisive action by the General Assembly in response to the gravity of the ongoing situation in Rakhine State and the evolving human rights and humanitarian crisis.

A General Assembly resolution should demand an immediate end to the abuses, that humanitarian aid agencies have immediate and unhindered access to populations in need, and for the UN Fact-Finding Mission authorized by the Human Rights Council in Geneva to be allowed unfettered access into and within Myanmar to investigate alleged human rights abuses across the country. It should also demand that the Myanmar authorities commit to ensuring that all Rohingya and other refugees and displaced people are able to return to their places of origin safely, voluntarily, and with dignity, and to dismantling the institutional discrimination and segregation of Rohingya and other Muslims in Rakhine State that forms the backdrop to the current crisis. The resolution should also urge member states and the Security Council to explore possible avenues to bring perpetrators of crimes under international law to justice.

We also urge members of the Security Council to add to the pressure on Myanmar authorities by seriously considering options such as an arms embargo against the military and targeted financial sanctions against individuals responsible for crimes and serious abuses.

All concerned UN member states should also consider bilateral, multilateral, and regional actions they can take to place added pressure on the Myanmar government. In particular, we call on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.

If governments, UN officials and diplomats simply hold meetings and make speeches as atrocities continue in Myanmar, they bear the risk of failing to use every diplomatic tool at their disposal to stop the ethnic cleansing campaign and further crimes against humanity. In the face of mass destruction, killings and hundreds of thousands displaced, inaction should not be an option.


  1. AFL-CIO
  2. American Jewish World Service
  3. Amnesty International
  4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  5. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN
  6. Asociación Pro Derechos Humano – Peru (APRODEH)
  7. Asylum Access
  8. Avaaz
  9. Burma Campaign UK
  10. Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
  11. Burma Task Force
  12. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  13. Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  14. Center for Civilians in Conflict
  15. Center for Development of International Law
  16. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  17. Coalition for Justice and Accountability (COJA)
  18. Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons (CRSP)
  19. Council for Humanitarian Networking of Sheikul Islam Office
  20. CREDO Action
  21. Cross Cultural Foundation (CRCF)
  22. Development and Justice Initiative, India
  23. Equal Rights Trust
  24. Fortify Rights
  25. Foundation for Rural Development (FRD)
  26. Front Mahasiswa
  27. Genocide Watch
  28. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
  29. Global Progressive Hub
  30. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
  31. Human Rights Now
  32. Human Rights Watch
  33. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
  34. Institute for Asian Democracy
  35. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  36. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  37. International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect
  38. International Detention Coalition
  39. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  40. International Justice Project
  41. International Organization for Victim Assistance
  42. International State Crime Initiative
  43. Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
  44. Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma
  45. Jewish Council for Public Affairs
  46. Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights
  47. Justice Centre Hong Kong
  48. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  49. Migrant 88
  50. Migrant Working Group (MWG)
  51. Minority Rights Group International
  52. Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
  53. National Council of Churches
  54. National Religious Campaign Against Torture
  55. Odhikar
  56. Pan African Lawyers Union’s (PALU)
  57. Partners Relief & Development
  58. Pemuda Anti Kekerasan Acheh
  59. Persatuan Darul Fitrah Terengganu
  60. Persatuan Ulama Kedah
  61. Physicians for Human Rights
  62. Presbyterian Church (USA)
  63. Progressive Voice Myanmar
  64. PROHAM (Society for the Promotion of Human Rights Malaysia)
  65. Refugees International
  66. Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  67. Restless Beings
  68. SANRIM
  69. SHARP-Pakistan
  70. Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak
  71. Society for Threatened Peoples-Germany
  72. STAND Canada
  73. STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities
  74. Suaka Indonesia
  75. Swedish Burma Committee
  76. The Arakan Project
  77. The Episcopal Church
  78. The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
  79. The Stanley Foundation
  80. Ummatee
  81. Union for Reform Judaism
  82. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  83. United Nations Association – UK
  84. US Campaign for Burma
  85. Win Without War
  86. World Federalist Movement – Canada
  87. World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy
  88. Yateem TV
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