September 13General Assembly expected to determine Myanmar representation at U.N. tomorrow
(BANGKOK, August 13, 2021)—United Nations member states should recognize the credentials of the serving Permanent
Representative of Myanmar to the U.N., Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, during the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly,
Fortify Rights said today. U.N. member states convene tomorrow in New York for the annual General Assembly.
“The Myanmar junta is an unlawful, criminal, and terrorizing enterprise that should have no place within the halls of
the U.N.,” said Matthew Smith, CEO at Fortify Rights. “Member states should support the credentials of Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun.”
Fortify Rights and 357 Myanmar and international civil society organizations today published an open letter
to all U.N. member states’ permanent representatives urging them to accept Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun’s credentials, which
empower him to attend and speak within the U.N. as Myanmar’s representative. Myanmar’s military junta is expected to
seek U.N. credentials for an opposing representative, sparking a dispute that could be settled, for the time being, on
procedural grounds by the General Assembly’s Credentials Committee.
The Credentials Committee is appointed by the General Assembly on the first day of the session. The committee comprises
representatives of nine U.N. member states proposed by the president of the General Assembly. It has become
well-established practice that the U.S., Russia, and China all take seats on the committee, and the remaining six
members are selected on the basis of equitable geographic coverage. The committee is mandated to examine credentials of
proposed representatives of member states and report to the General Assembly on its findings.
Prior to the February 1 military coup d’état in Myanmar, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun served as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. and, at the time of
writing, retains his credentials. In a speech to the General Assembly on February 26, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun denounced the coup d’état
and called on member states to use “the strongest possible action . . . to immediately end the military coup, to stop
oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people, and to restore the democracy.”
On April 16, elected legislators in Myanmar formed the National Unity Government (NUG) to represent the sovereign will
of the people of Myanmar. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has pledged allegiance to the NUG.
The NUG has taken important steps to address past and present atrocity crimes and human rights violations in Myanmar. On
August 19, the NUG announced it had delegated jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court
to investigate and prosecute atrocities dating back to 2002. It also acknowledged the rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority
and atrocity crimes they faced at the hands of the military, which Fortify Rights, a U.N. fact-finding mission, and
others have identified as genocide
Since seizing power, the Myanmar military junta has killed more than 1,000 women, men, and children and arbitrarily
arrested, detained, and charged more than 8,000 people in a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian
The U.N. General Assembly issued a resolution
on June 25 that “strongly condemned” the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and, in a rare move, called
for a global arms embargo against the Myanmar military. The resolution received widespread international support, with
119 member states voting in favor of it and only one, Belarus, voting against it.
When dealing with past disputes, the Credentials Committee has either voted for one party over the other or has deferred
their decision, leaving the incumbent Permanent Representative provisionally in place.
No authoritative rules or guidance have been developed to assist the credentials committee to decide between rival
claims for credentials; however, a General Assembly resolution
from 1950 states:
[W]henever more than one authority claims to be the government entitled to represent a Member State in the United
Nations and this question becomes the subject of controversy in the United Nations, the question should be considered in
the light of the Purposes and Principles of the Charter and the circumstances of each case.
Article 1(3) of the U.N. Charter notes that the purposes of the global body include “promoting and encouraging respect
for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all.” Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes in
Article 21(3) that “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”
“Member states should urgently support the NUG and the people of Myanmar in their efforts to hold the junta accountable
for its crimes,” said Matthew Smith. “The international community is failing the people of Myanmar and should do everything now to correct course.”