UN rights expert: conflict in Rakhine continues to inspire discrimination in Myanmar

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar [official website], Tomas Ojea Quintana, warned [press release] on Friday that sectarian violence between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State [Economist backgrounder] is contributing to wider anti-Muslim sentiments in Myanmar, threatening the positive changes undertaken by the country in the past two years. While Quintana acknowledged that Myanmar's government has demonstrated willingness to address the situation, he expressed concern that discriminatory acts against Muslims remain unattended: "The Government has yet to fulfill its obligation under international human rights law to investigate the allegations of widespread human rights violations, including by the security forces, reportedly committed during and after last year's violence and to hold the perpetrators to account." Quintana concluded by urging Myanmar to continue taking steps towards democratic reform and national reconciliation by amending its constitution, removing from it provisions disqualifying persons from presidential candidacy on unfair grounds and allowing military appointees to occupy 25 percent of seats in Parliament, and adding to it protections for the rights of minority groups.

Earlier this month Quintana welcomed [JURIST report] the release of 56 prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, although he stressed the need for legislative reforms that would address the injustice against prisoners of conscience. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Myanmar's government to revise its draft association laws [JURIST report], which, if enacted, would require nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to obtain official registration to operate and would impose criminal penalties on NGOs that failed to register. Earlier in August Quintana applauded [JURIST report] recent government efforts to encourage a culture of respect between clashing political and religious sects but recognized the need for increased government action on a wide array of issues. In July Quntana praised the release [JURIST report] of 73 prisoners of consciousness in Myanmar.

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