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UN envoy asks Myanmar`s junta to release political prisoners

Last Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2009 - 09:55

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

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

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

First Published: Saturday, October 24, 2009 - 09:55

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