UN envoy asks Myanmar’s junta to release political prisoners

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana

New York: Describing the human rights situation in Myanmar as “alarming”, a top UN official has asked the ruling military junta to release all political prisoners and ensure that the elections in 2010 are fair and transparent.

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, also asked the junta to create an independent judiciary and reform the country’s military to respect humanitarian law in conflict areas.

“There is a pattern of widespread and systematic violations…the prevailing impunity allows for the continuation of these violations,” Quintana said.

“I urged the government to take prompt measure to establish accountability and responsibility with regard to those systematic and widespread violations,” he added.

He urged the government to ensure that the elections in 2010 are fair and transparent.

“The freedom of speech and movement should be guaranteed in the country and all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” he said.

During his visit to Myanmar in July, UN Chief Ban Ki-moon made similar demands but were largely ignored by the government. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued detention will prevent her from contesting elections next year. In September, only 131 out of more than 2000 prisoners of conscience were released.

In his report to the UN, Quintana recommends the repeal of a discriminatory legislation in Northern Rakhine State where many Muslims have been deprived of citizenship, movement and fundamental freedoms.

He welcomed the decision by the Myanmar Supreme Court that allows the Rohingya Muslim, from the Arkan state in the west, to marry without restrictions.

“I think that is a positive development from the judiciary in Myanmar,” he said. “The Supreme Court in those cases recognised that the Rohingya had the right to marry each other.”

Quintana also pointed out patterns of starvation in many areas of the country, and called the government and international community to eradicate poverty for relieving dire economic and social conditions in areas like Kayin, North Rakhine, Chin, North Shan and East Shan states.

Since being appointed in 2008, Quintana will make his third visit to Myanmar in November. He told journalists here that he faces many limitations in terms of access to people and cannot walk around freely. Previously, permission to meet Suu Kyi has been denied.

Bureau Report

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