Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Myanmar: UN expert greets latest commitments on human rights and calls for swift implementation

GENEVA (20 November 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, welcomed today the
latest commitments from the Government of Myanmar on human rights as
significant steps forward in the ongoing reform process, and encouraged the
authorities to focus now on their prompt implementation.

These pledges announced by the Government on 18 November include the
resumption of prison visits for the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC), the setting up of a mechanism to review prisoner lists,
addressing the situation in Rakhine State, and an invitation to the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a country office.

“These are significant commitments made by the Government of Myanmar, with
tremendous potential to effect significant improvements in the country’s
human rights situation,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said, noting that they are
consistent with some of his previous recommendations, including those in
his latest report* to the General Assembly last month.

“I now encourage the Government to work with all stakeholders, including
the international community, in working out the necessary details and
ensuring that they are properly implemented,” the Special Rapporteur said.

 “Full access to places of detention by international and national
monitoring groups will help to address ongoing concerns about the condition
and treatment of prisoners and detainees, including in Rakhine State where
many hundreds of people have been detained since June this year,” he
pointed out.

Regarding the setting up of the review mechanism on ‘prisoner cases of
concern’ by the end of December 2012, the Special Rapporteur emphasised
that a vital element of this commitment will be the involvement of relevant
stakeholders, including political and civil society organisations and
released prisoners themselves.

“The outcome of this mechanism should be that no prisoners of conscience
are left behind bars,” the human rights expert said. “To achieve this will
require meaningful consultation with a wide range of people from both
inside and outside of Government circles.”

In this regard, he welcomed the presidential order of 16 November that led
to the release of around 50 prisoners of conscience, but again called on
the Government to ensure that these releases are without conditions. He
also called for steps to be taken to ensure prisoners’ reintegration into
society, including access to medical services and education and employment

In Rakhine State, Mr. Ojea Quintana welcomed the commitment by the
Government to strengthen the rule of law, to work with the international
community to meet humanitarian needs, and to address ‘contentious’ issues
such as citizenship.

In addition, the expert highlighted the need for the Government to develop
a clear strategy to address the tensions that exist between groups on the
grounds of ethnicity and religion, which will include addressing the
discrimination and human rights violations committed against the Rohingya

“Developing a strategy to tackle discrimination should be an integral part
of the Government’s efforts to secure a future where the range of ethnic
groups in Myanmar can live in equality and peaceful coexistence,” he

The Special Rapporteur also welcomed the commitment to extend an invitation
to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in
Myanmar.  He highlighted the importance of the office being given a full
mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights, and freedom of
movement and access across the country.

Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations
Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent
from any government or organization .



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