Myanmar: UN Expert Calls for Tolerance and Safety from Reprisals after Online Threats to Activists


UN News – TRANSCEND Media Service

10 Dec 2019 – The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has condemned online threats against activists campaigning for justice and accountability, urging the Government and social media firms to do more to protect campaigners.


The threats follow announcements of international legal proceedings over the atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Myanmar military and other security forces in 2016 and 2017, and their ongoing persecution.

“The online threats, including those targeting prominent activists Dr. Maung Zarni and Mr. Nay Say Lwin of the Free Rohingya Coalition are deeply concerning,” Lee said.

“I call on each and every organ of the Myanmar State to ensure that absolutely no reprisals are taken against any group or individual that is advocating for justice and accountability in Myanmar.”

Last month, The Gambia filed an historic application against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice under the Genocide Convention, while the International Criminal Court has authorised an investigation into crimes against humanity that are alleged across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, and criminal complaints of genocide and crimes against humanity have been filed in Argentina under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

“Following the announcement of these important developments, I have noted the spread of increasingly hostile online rhetoric propagating a false and divisive narrative of being either ‘with us’ or ‘against us’,” said Lee.

“Abusive speech continues to be circulated on social media targeting Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, as well as human rights defenders, women and others.

“These messages are intended to spread hatred and fear and, as we know, can have disastrous real-world consequences.”

Noting the role that social media had played in stoking the violence of 2016 and 2017, Lee called on the Government to take urgent and comprehensive action to combat incitement to violence, discrimination and hatred and to actively promote a culture of tolerance and moderation.

“The Myanmar Government should ensure that everyone doing so is safe from intimidation, violence and reprisals,” she said.

Lee urged social media companies to step up their efforts to meet their responsibility to respect human rights, including by ensuring they were not providing platforms for hate and incitement to violence.


UN Human Rights, Country Page – Myanmar

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Ms Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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