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Myanmar court imprisons 2 UN staff members over sectarian violence

A court in Myanmar on Friday sentenced two local UN staff members to imprisonment for their alleged involvement in sectarian violence that gripped the western Rakhine state this past spring. One of the staff members worked for [DVM report] the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the other worked for the World Food Program. An employee working for an aid agency partnered with the UN was also imprisoned. The three aid workers, who are reportedly from Myanmar's Muslim minority, received prison terms of between two and six years [AP report]. According to Aye Win, the National Information Officer for the UN Information Center in Yangoon, the UN did not receive official information about the convictions, and the aid workers were not represented by lawyers [Myanmar Times report] during their trial.

Earlier this month Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC profile] announced the creation of a 27-member commission [JURIST report] tasked with investigating the cause of the sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. The clashes, which began in May and carried on into June in the western Rakhine state, were responsible for at least 83 deaths and the displacement of thousands of nearby civilians. In July 10 UN staff and aid workers were arrested [JURIST report] in Rakhine. At that time, it was reported that three of those arrested [Reuters report] were Myanmar nationals working for the UNHCR while four of the 10 arrested were working for Doctors Without Borders. Earlier this month several other UN staff members and representatives from international NGOs were released after spending over two months in prison.

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