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UN Expert Calls For Investigation of Rights Abuse in Burma

  • Lisa Schlein

Tomas Ojea Quintana, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar is pictured through a television tripod during a news conference (file photo)

Tomas Ojea Quintana, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar is pictured through a television tripod during a news conference (file photo)

A U.N. Human Rights Expert is calling for an independent commission to investigate gross violations of human rights in Burma, also known as Myanmar. In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. Special Investigator describes increasing repression in Burma.

U.N. Special Investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana says the hoped for transition to democracy resulting from last year’s general parliamentary elections has not materialized.

He says political opposition parties and ethnic minorities were excluded from the process, and warns a democratic transition that is incomplete cannot bring stability to Burma.

He says basic freedoms of speech, association and assembly are lacking. He says Burma’s rulers must urgently address the widespread and systematic abuse of human rights.

He says the government must back up its claims of moving toward a more democratic society by sending strong signals it intends to change the policies and practices of the old government. “One of the strongest signals the Government could send would be the release of all prisoners of conscience. The positive decision to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2010 should be followed by the immediate and unconditional release of all those individuals who have been imprisoned for exercising their fundamental human rights,” Quintana said.

Special Investigator Quintana says the new government must sooner, rather than later, confront the need for truth, justice and accountability. Therefore, he says he is renewing his call for an independent, impartial and credible investigation of grave human rights violations to be conducted without delay.

In his recent mission to the region, he says he met with refugees and asylum seekers from all parts of the country. He says their stories reflect many tragedies resulting from government action.

“The abuses most of them suffered were multiple, and reflect the information the international community has been receiving for many years about the widespread violations that occur inside the country. They include: forced labor, extrajudicial execution, sexual and gender-based violence, land and property confiscation, arbitrary taxation, religious and ethnic discrimination, arbitrary detention as well as the deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights,” he said.

The Burmese representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council scorns the report. He says it does not reflect the true situation in Burma. He disputes the special investigator’s characterization of last year’s elections and says the electoral process was free and the transition to democracy in his country is intact.

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