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UN Investigator Accuses Burma of Systematic Rights Violations


U.N. Investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana has just returned from his third mission to Burma since assuming his post in 2008. Quintana spent four days there in mid-February. He says the duration allowed for the mission was too short and the access limited.

The U.N. special investigator on human rights is accusing the Burmese government of systematic and gross violations. The investigator, who has just submitted his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, says some of these violations might entail crimes against humanity.

U.N. Investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana has just returned from his third mission to Burma since assuming his post in 2008. Quintana spent four days there in mid-February. He says the duration allowed for the mission was too short and the access limited.

Nonetheless, he says he was able to visit three prisons and hold wide-ranging interviews with 15 prisoners. He says he met with authorities and representatives from political parties and ethnic minorities among others.

Despite claims to the contrary, he says he does not believe the Burmese government is enacting the reforms needed towards the building of democratic institutions.

He says a newly enacted law strips the right of prisoners of conscience to participate in upcoming elections this year.

"There is no indication that prisoners of conscience will be released and that freedom of expression, assembly and association will be granted. My assessment is that under these current conditions, elections in Myanmar cannot be considered credible," he said.

Quintana says there are some 2100 prisoners of conscience, including pro-democracy leader and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for many years.

He says he regrets that his special request to meet Suu Kyi was rejected.

"Of course, I think that she is a prisoner of conscience," said Quintana. "She also as Secretary-General of an important party in the country, she plays an important role.…Since she is a prisoner of conscience, which means she has been convicted by a court, according to this law, she will not be allowed even to be a member of the party, a party which may or not participate in the elections," he said.

Quintana reiterates his call for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release.

The U.N. investigator denounces the Burmese government's treatment of the Muslim population in northern Rakhine state. He says an estimated one million people are excluded from citizenship on the basis of their ethnicity and are considered illegal immigrants.

He says they suffer from discrimination and are denied their basic rights.

He says the government must be held accountable for past violations. He is calling for an international commission of inquiry to look into serious cases of abuse, which he says may entail crimes against humanity.

The Burmese representative at the United Nations strongly condemns and rejects, what he calls unfounded allegations. He says the U.N. investigator's report is based on disinformation coming from unverifiable and unreliable sources.

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