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Myanmar Needs to Do More to Improve Human Rights Situation

Myanmar Needs to Do More to Improve Human Rights Situation, Says UN Expert

New York, Aug 25 2011 - While the new Government of Myanmar has taken steps to improve the human rights situation in the country, it needs to deploy greater efforts to address serious concerns such as the continuing detention of a large number of political prisoners, a United Nations expert said today.

Earlier this year Myanmar’s newly-convened Parliament elected a new President and two vice-presidents, a move welcomed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had stated at the time that he hoped it would lead to the formation of a more inclusive civilian government that is broadly representative of all parties and more responsive to the aspirations of the people.

“This is a key moment in Myanmar’s history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy,” Tomás Ojea Quintana said at the end of his five-day mission to the South-East Asian nation.

“The new Government has taken a number of steps towards these ends. Yet, many serious human rights issues remain and they need to be addressed,” added Mr. Quintana, who has served since 2008 as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

“Of key concern to me and to the international community is the continuing detention of a large number of prisoners of conscience,” he stated in a news release issued in Yangon.

The expert said that in his meetings with the Government, he conveyed his belief that their release is a “central and necessary” step towards national reconciliation and would bring more benefit to Myanmar’s efforts towards democracy.

Last December, Mr. Quintana had urged the Government to release at least 2,202 prisoners of conscience still detained one month after the freeing of pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, saying many of the prisoners are seriously ill as a result of harsh jail conditions.

He had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Suu Kyi during his just completed visit, as well as with other Government ministers and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, he saw the new Parliament in session in Naypyitaw and visited Insein Prison, where he met with prisoners of conscience.

In his end-of-mission statement, the Special Rapporteur voiced concern about the continuing allegations of torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, the use of prisoners as porters for the military, and the transfers of prisoners to prisons in remote areas where they are unable to receive family visits or packages of essential medicine and supplemental food.

Other concerns highlighted include tensions in ethnic border areas and armed conflict with some armed ethnic groups, which engender serious human rights violations, including attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, internal displacement, land confiscations, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour and portering.

“I call on the authorities and all armed groups to ensure the protection of civilians in conflict-affected areas and to accelerate efforts towards finding a political solution to the conflict,” he stated.

Among his recommendations, Mr. Quintana encouraged the Government to take the necessary measures for investigations of human rights violations to be conducted in an independent, impartial and credible manner.

“Justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, are fundamental for Myanmar to face its past and current human rights challenges, and to move forward towards national reconciliation,” he stated.

UN independent experts, including Mr. Quintana, report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. They work in an independent and unpaid capacity.

For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

ENDS

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