Release Political Prisoners before Elections: UN Official

Thomas Ojea Quintana (UN Special Reporteur on Burma)

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma.
Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma.
WASHINGTON — The Burmese military junta should release all political prisoners before the country’s 2010 elections in order to make it as inclusive as possible, the UN special rapporteur

on human rights in Burma said on Thursday.

“I told the government that these elections should be fair and transparent, that freedom of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed in the country, and of course that all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” said Tomás Ojea Quintana, addressing a press conference at  UN headquarters in New York.

Quintana also urged the military junta to take prompt measures to establish accountability and responsibility regarding widespread and systematic human rights violations.
Referring to starvation and reports of dire socio-economic conditions in many parts of the country, he also asked the Burmese government and the international community to find solutions to eradicate poverty in the country.

Recounting his recommendations to the Burmese junta, he said he called for the release of all prisoners of conscience; the review and reform of national legislation that was not in compliance with international human rights standards; the reform of the judiciary to assure independence and impartiality; and the reform of the military which needed to respect international humanitarian law in conflict areas, as well as the rights of civilians.

Quintana said he told the UN General Assembly committee dealing with social and humanitarian issues that the situation of human rights in Burma remained “alarming,” with “a pattern of widespread and systematic violations.” The prevailing military impunity allowed for the continuation of the violations, he sad.

“I urge the government to take prompt measures to establish accountability and responsibility with regard to those widespread and systematic human rights violations,” he said.

Quintana, who has visited Burma twice since being appointed special rapporteur in May 2008, said he will make a third trip from Nov. 22 to 27. The itinerary of the visit would depend on the agenda agreed to by the government, but one of the issues of interest to him related to serious human rights violations with regard to the country’s Muslim communities.

In response to a question, he described a recent favorable ruling by Burma’s Supreme Court with regard to the situation of Muslims and their rights to marry each other. That positive development had been included in his report, he said.

Asked to comment on reports that provision of food aid in Burma was conditional on work, he said that he had not mentioned that in his report because he had not had any reliable evidence on that point.  But his report did contain information on food assistance.

In regard to Burma’s judiciary, he said he had met with the attorney-general, with whom he had a frank discussion on the issue of independence. He said it was significant that during his last visit, the chief justice had accepted a mission by the special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, which had initially been denied by the government.

[readon1 url=”http://irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=17049″]Source: Irrawaddy[/readon1]

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