UN Outlines Steps to Improve Burma’s Human Rights
By THE IRRAWADDY
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN special reporteur on human rights in Burma, outlined “core human rights elements” that should be put in place before the 2010 general election, in a statement released on Wednesday.
The elements include:
—Amend domestic laws that limit freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly.
—Release of political prisoners.
—Repeal discriminatory laws.
—Stop the recruitment of child soldiers.
“Respect for international human rights standards is indispensable” for the regime’s proposed “roadmap to democracy” to gain international acceptance, Quintana said.
He said full enjoyment of human rights does not exist in Burma, according to “reliable reports on the extension of detentions and/or new arrests of political activists.”
The release of political prisoner would reduce tension and inspire political participation among stakeholders in Burma, he said.
The transition to a multi-party democratic and civil government, as planned under the new constitution, will require “an intensive process of incorporating democratic values,” Quintana said.
He suggested a number of changes in the country’s judiciary, which currently “is not independent and is under the direct control of the government and the military.”
Proposed changes include guaranteeing the due process of law, establishing a fully independent and impartial judiciary and setting up a mechanism to investigate human rights abuses.
Quintana, who took up his post in May 2007, visited Burma in August and met with prominent political prisoners, including U Gambira, the head of the All-Burmese Monks Alliance, a leading force in the 2007 demonstrations. He met with Gambari in Insein Prison, where he was being held prior to standing trial for posing a threat to the security of the state.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday his planned visit to Burma in December might not take place unless he sees the regime is ready to produce tangible results toward progress in democratization.
Also, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, this week called for the release of all political prisoners including detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The junta now holds 2,123 political prisoners in various prisons across the country, according to a report compiled by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) and the US-based Campaign for Burma.
Two leading activist groups in a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Ban released on Sunday said, “Dramatic increases in the number of political prisoners show the junta’s defiance of the United Nations and international community, as well as its own people.”