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US Envoy to UN Rights Council Criticizes Burma's Record

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Ambassador says US remains "deeply concerned" about Burma's human rights record, citing "systematic violations of... fundamental freedoms" in the military-run Southeast Asian nation.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations' Human Rights Council says the United States remains "deeply concerned" about Burma's human rights record, citing "systematic violations of... fundamental freedoms" in the military-run Southeast Asian nation.

Eileen Donahoe, speaking Thursday in Geneva, said Washington strongly condemns the widely reported abuses, including the continued detention of more than 2,100 political prisoners.

Her condemnation came at a council debate on human rights, a review procedure the 47-member council began on all its member-states in 2006.

Donahoe told the Burmese delegation that Washington has "independent" reports of hundreds of cases of torture of Burmese political prisoners.  She also repeated U.S. criticism of the rare parliamentary election staged by the Burmese military in November, calling the vote "neither free nor fair."

For its part, Burma says the new parliament set to convene next week is part of its transition to democracy.

International rights groups described Thursday's debate as an opportunity for council members to pressure Burma's military rulers to address its widely perceived human rights violations.

Last week, a U.S.-based group, Physicians for Human Rights, accused the Burmese junta of committing crimes against humanity in a minority-dominated region, and urged the United Nations to open an investigation into the issue.

The group said volunteers interviewed hundreds of families in northwestern Burma's Chin state and heard that many of them reported relatives being killed, raped or forced into slave labor by Burmese authorities.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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