Expressing serious concern over the recent violence in Manipur, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has urged authorities concerned to take urgent steps, including an investigation, and address the root causes of the violence in line with their international human rights obligations.
The UN High Commissioner was speaking at a press conference held at the UN in Geneva on Wednesday (May 24), during which he mentioned the unrest in Manipur, among others, while saying that "in a number of situations, we can see the consequences when different groups incite and stoke hatred and division between communities”.
“The recent violence in Manipur, Northeast India, revealed the underlying tensions between different ethnic and indigenous groups. I urge the authorities to respond to the situation quickly, including by investigating and addressing the root causes of the violence in line with their international human rights obligations," Türk said.
The unprecedented series of violence that broke out between two major communities in Manipur—the Meetei and Kuki—across 11 districts in the state, including the capital Imphal, since May 3 has claimed several lives, injured hundreds, and rendered nearly 50,000 people displaced and homeless. It has also caused massive destruction of property, including places of worship and other establishments.
A total indefinite curfew has been imposed in affected districts, and all Internet and broadband services have been suspended in the entire state for nearly a month now. The situation remains tense amid reports of fresh violence, including unabated militant attacks on villagers living in periphery areas.
Need for UN Human Rights Office everywhere
Türk also called for the setting up of a UN Human Rights Office everywhere, saying that a strong UN Human Rights Office and a healthy, well-resourced human rights ecosystem are of global interest.
“There should be a UN Human Rights Office everywhere. For all States can and should do better on human rights. I have been advocating for this in my meetings with all UN Member States and in my missions,” Türk said.
At present, there are 94 UN Human Rights presences around the world, he added.
Also, saying that nowhere is the devastating impact of human rights violations more stark than in the midst of armed conflict and in the aftermath of natural disasters, Türk mentioned several other instances of violence and man-made disasters taking place across the world, including Cyclone Mocha.
Cyclone Mocha, which cut a swathe of destruction through Rakhine, Chin, and Kachin States, as well as Sagaing and Magway, in Myanmar on May 14, is the latest, deeply painful manifestation of a man-made disaster resulting from a climate event, he pointed out.
“For decades, the authorities in Myanmar have deprived the Rohingya of their rights and freedoms and relentlessly attacked other ethnic groups, eroding their capacity to survive. Displaced communities have subsisted in temporary bamboo structures, some since 2012, with Myanmar’s military repeatedly denying requests from humanitarian agencies to build more sustainable living conditions in areas less prone to flooding. I saw this myself on my many trips to Myanmar, especially to the east. They have also consistently prevented the Rohingya from moving freely, including in the days before the cyclone.
“The damage and loss of life were both foreseeable and avoidable and are clearly linked with the systematic denial of human rights. It is imperative that the military lift the blockages on travel, allow for needs assessments to happen, and ensure access to and delivery of lifesaving aid and services,” he added.
Since the launch of the year-long commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN has issued a series of initiatives calling on states and all others to make pledges and to take clear steps to fulfill the promises of the Universal Declaration.
“This year, we also celebrate 30 years since the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna created the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. That is an important milestone for us. It was in June 1993 at this conference that – after a difficult process fraught with geopolitical divisions – the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted. The Declaration was a strong and clear endorsement - by consensus of all UN Member States – of all the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We have been at the forefront of addressing issues of global importance as they emerge, including the human rights impacts of climate change, artificial intelligence, and digital technology.”
The Human Rights 75 programme will culminate in a high-level event on December 11 and 12, convened by my office here in Geneva, linked up with Bangkok, Nairobi and Panama City, Türk informed.