Human rights violations in Myanmar criticized by UN body

Human Rights Council in Geneva

26 March 2010 – Speaking out against violations of fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar, the United Nations Human Rights Council today called on the Asian nation's Government to ensure that polls slated for later this year – the first in two decades – are free and transparent.

On the last day of its 13th regular session, the 47-member body passed a resolution voicing concern that electoral laws unveiled earlier this month do not meet the international community's expectations.

According to media reports, these laws relate to the registration of political parties and prohibit anyone with a criminal conMs. Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months of house arrestviction from being a member of an official party.

The Council today urged authorities in Myanmar to desist from carrying out any further politically-motivated arrests and to release all prisoners of conscience, believed to number above 2,000, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms. Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months of house arrest, effectively barring her from taking part in the polls. The leader of the party known as the National League for Democracy (NLD), she was reportedly convicted of violating State security laws after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to her home.

The Council also took action today to extend the mandate for one year of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana.

Earlier this month, Mr. Ojea Quintana, who visited the country in February, said that there is no indication that the Government is willing to release political prisoners ahead of the national elections.

“Without full participation, including by the some 2,100 prisoners of conscience, and an environment that allows people and parties to engage in the range of electoral activities, the elections cannot be credible,” he said.

Following his meeting yesterday with the so-called Group of Friends of Myanmar, which brings together more than one dozen nations and one regional bloc in support of greater dialogue in the country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for “inclusive, participatory and transparent” elections to “advance the prospects of stability, democracy and development for all the people” of the country.

Responding to a question on whether or not Ms. Suu Kyi's call for her NLD party to not take part in the polls will hurt the electoral process, Mr. Ban, who last visited Myanmar in July, said that her decision must be respected.

He has told the leaders of Myanmar, he said, that “without full participation of all the people, including political prisoners, and particularly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it may not be regarded as credible and inclusive.”

The Human Rights Council's latest session, which kicked off on 1 March, ended with 29 resolutions passed on torture, the rights of the child and other issues. Twenty of the resolutions were adopted by consensus.

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