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Unanimous UN Human Rights Council Condemns Burma

The United Nations Human Rights Council has condemned the Burmese government for its violent repression of peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist monks and opposition protesters. The Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for an independent investigation of the human rights situation in the country. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UN headquarters in Geneva.

The resolution sponsored by the European Union strongly deplores the violent methods used by Burma to crack down on the dissidents, including beatings, killings, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances.

It urges the government to release all the people detained and calls on the military rulers to allow the council representative to report on the violence.

Portuguese Ambassador, Francisco Xavier Esteves submitted the resolution on behalf of the EU.

"The Human Rights Council cannot remain silent in the face of shocking events such as those taking place in Burma/Myanmar," he said. "The European Union expressed solidarity with the Burmese people and its admiration for the demonstrations by monks, nuns and other citizens who are exercising their rights for peaceful demonstration and freedom of speech. They should know that the international community is listening to their protests."

The 47-member Council adopted the resolution by consensus. This was the first time the body has criticized a government other than Israel since it was established last year.

Even African and Asian countries that normally reject what they consider interference in the rights of sovereign countries went along. The resolution also received support from a number of observer countries.

The resolution calls for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to go to Rangoon to investigate events surrounding the crackdown.

After the vote, Pinheiro called the session historic. He said the consensus vote by so many countries sends an eloquent message to the Burmese leaders that they cannot ignore the will of the international community.

Burma has barred Pinheiro from entering the country for the past four years. And, he said he does not know whether the military rulers will grant him access this time.

"I think that they must, they must allow, they must invite me to go to the country," he noted. "Why? Because there is this powerful message of so many countries in the world. We need to have an assessment. How many people died? How many people are in the hospitals? How many people are injured? Where are the bodies? Have they performed forensic exams. Have the bodies been returned to the families?"

Pinheiro said he thinks a member state that refuses to abide by UN Council resolutions should be made to pay a price. The Human Rights expert will report his findings to the Council at its next session in December.