UN rights expert urges Myanmar to probe abuses

UN rights expert urges Myanmar to probe abuses

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[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile] on Thursday urged the government of Myanmar to investigate human rights abuses and improve its rights record [press release]. Speaking at the end of his five-day mission to Myanmar, Quintana said that the government must do more to fulfill its international human rights obligations. Quintana also urged the government to release political prisoners. He said that the government has made significant progress recently, but that more must be done [statement]:

This is a key moment in Myanmar’s history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful developments to improve the human rights situation and bring about a genuine transition to democracy. The new Government has taken a number of steps towards these ends. Yet, many serious human rights issues remain and they need to be addressed. I call on the Government to intensify its efforts to implement its own commitments and to fulfill its international human rights obligations. The international community needs to continue to remain engaged and to closely follow developments. The international community also needs to support and assist the Government during this important time. I reaffirm my willingness to work constructively and cooperatively with Myanmar to improve the human rights situation of its people.

Quintana plans to make another visit to the country before his next report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in March 2012.

In May, Quintana said that continued ethnic violence [JURIST report] in Myanmar presents “serious limitations” to the government’s transition to democracy. He does not believe that the government is doing enough to provide a political solution to the ethnic conflicts in the border areas. Earlier that month, Myanmar began releasing close to 15,000 prisoners, but many human rights groups claim the government is still holding many more political prisoners. Quintana urged Myanmar’s military government to release 2,202 political prisoners [JURIST report] last December. Quintana called for the release of the “prisoners of conscience,” many of whom, he says, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy. In March, Myanmar underwent a transfer of power [BBC report] from a military regime to a civil system after holding its first elections in 20 years. However, critics argue that the new regime is merely a sham since it is made up of military generals and with the military party winning 80 percent of the vote.