UN expert urges Myanmar to protect human rights

UN expert urges Myanmar to protect human rights

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[JURIST] An independent UN human rights expert on Monday called on the government of Myanmar [JURIST news archive] to ensure that human rights are protected [text, PDF]. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, presented his report in front of the UN Human Rights Council [official website]. In the report, Quintana praised recent political reform efforts by the government of Myanmar but stressed that elections in April will be a more true test of how far political reforms have progressed:

The upcoming by-elections on 1 April 2012 will be a key test of how far the Government has progressed in its reform process. There is, however, a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved to date. At this crucial moment in the country’s history, remaining human rights concerns and challenges should be addressed, and justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, should be taken.

Additionally, Quintana made several policy recommendations in the report. He called on the Myanmar government to release all political prisoners, ensure that new political reforms are implemented and guarantee that citizens are afforded freedoms of speech and assembly.

Myanmar’s nominally civilian government has implemented numerous political reforms since winning the first elections held in 20 years in March 2011. Last month, in addition to releasing political prisoners, Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC backgrounder] signed a clemency order that shortened sentences [JURIST report] for many prisoners on humanitarian grounds. In December, Sein gave his official approval to a bill allowing the country’s citizens to conduct peaceful protests [JURIST report], if the protests are approved in advance. The Myanmar government also announced in December that the political party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive] would be allowed to register for the next elections, a move that would allow Suu Kyi to run for parliament after being detained under house arrest [JURIST reports] for nearly eight years. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] has praised [JURIST report] the country’s strive toward democracy.