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Quintana’s Report Sparks Debate and Action; NLD Decides Not to Register

By Burma Partnership  •  March 29, 2010

UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana’s courageous report calling for a UN-sanctioned investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes has already carried ripple effects from Geneva to New York to Jakarta, fueling discussions in both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council, and prompting civil society to demand action from the new ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Just today, the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma submitted a case to the AICHR, including documents detailing crimes against humanity and war crimes, and calling on the Commission, on the occasion of its first meeting in Jakarta, to launch its own investigation.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution by consensus, presented by the European Union. While condemning “systematic violations” in Burma, it called on the regime to release political prisoners and ensure a “free, transparent, fair electoral process” which allows for unhindered participation of all voters and parties.

A few days later, at the prompting of the UK, the Security Council held closed-door talks on Burma. On the agenda was Quintana’s recommendation for a UN Commission of Inquiry, where the UK took a strong stand for Burma’s referral to the International Criminal Court, another significant milestone for the growing momentum of the global movement calling for a investigations into crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Another main topic of discussion at the Security Council was the upcoming elections, a subject, which the Chinese Ambassador insisted was “a matter of sovereign states,” and “should be respected.” The UK’s sharp response was that the elections are on the Security Council’s agenda because “a flawed electoral process is a threat to international peace and security.” This is precisely the argument made by many groups in the democracy and ethnic rights movement inside and outside Burma—that undemocratic and non-reconciliatory elections will only further destabilize Burma and the region.

At a press conference following another meeting of the Group of Friends on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon responded to a question about Daw Suu’s opposition to the NLD’s registration. “If what she said is based on her genuine belief, based on the current situations, then we have to respect her decision.” But, in the end it is for the people to decide, he added. And in a long awaited decision today, the people-elected winning party of the 1990 elections—the NLD-has decided not to register for the elections, due to the highly restrictive conditions single handedly set by the regime. NLD representatives from every state and division took part in the decision today—a judgment supported by democratic and ethnic opposition groups and supporters inside and outside the country.

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