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Burma’s Grave Human Rights Situation Stands Before the UN’s Review

By Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review  •  January 20, 2011

Representatives from the Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR), a coalition of fourteen human rights and civil society organizations, are currently in Geneva to raise concerns over the grave human rights situation in Burma ahead of the country’s first Universal Periodic Review on 27 January. The Review comes at a time when Burma is under the international spotlight, due to the recent release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the controversial November elections which were neither free nor fair, and the forthcoming first session of the new Parliament on 31 January.

The Universal Periodic Review – a process under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN member States once every four years – shall provide a unique opportunity for the international community to put pressure on the military regime to take concrete and genuine steps to implement legislative and institutional reforms and fully cooperate with the international human rights mechanisms. The BF-UPR held a series of consultations throughout 2010, and made a joint submission to the process last July in order to highlight the widespread and systematic human rights violations in the country, some of which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. The joint submission covered thirteen priority areas, and made practical recommendations for member and observer States of the UN Human Rights Council to put to Burma at the UPR Working Group session in Geneva.

The BF-UPR strongly advocates for an UN-led Commission of Inquiry into international crimes, as recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, in his reports to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. BF-UPR delegate Dr. Thaung Htun said, “repeated UN calls for independent investigations into alleged gross human rights violations have been met with absolute incompliance by the ruling authorities in Burma. It is the responsibility of the international community to establish an UN-led Commission of Inquiry to expose the truth and ensure measures of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. We believe this is the most legitimate and effective way to address the culture of impunity and deter serious human rights violations from occurring in the country.”

The BF-UPR will hold a public event immediately after the UPR Working Group session on Burma, from 1-3pm on 27 January in Room 22 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. Burmese human rights defenders in the country and exile will observe the Review session on Burma over the UN live webcast and will join the panel discussion through teleconference to provide their reflections on the Review. The event is open to local and international media, members of diplomatic communities and civil society. (ENDS)

For media interviews, please contact:

Geneva:

Thaung Htun, Director, Burma Fund UN Office, +41 (0)76 2225692

Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, +41 (0)76 2199557

Za Uk Ling, Program Director, Chin Human Rights Organization, +41 (0)76 7153298

Thailand:

Aung Myo Min, Director, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, +66 (0)81 9925293

For general inquries, please contact:

Geneva: Giyoun Kim, UN Advocacy Programme Manager, FORUM-ASIA, +41 (0)79 5957931

Thailand: Cheery Zahau, Programme Coordinator, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, +66 (0)84 9213423

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The 3-hour review on the human rights situation of Burma will be conducted by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, which consists of the 47 member States of the UN Human Rights Council. Furthermore, any other observer States can take part in the Working Group session by making questions and recommendations to the State under review. The UPR Working Group session on Burma will be held in Geneva at 9am-12noon (2:30-5:30pm in Rangoon) on 27 January 2011.
  • Key recommendations in the 13 priority areas identified by the BF-UPR include:
  1. (Human Rights Mechanisms and International Cooperation) Ratify and effectively implement international human rights treaties, including the ICCPR and its Optional Protocols, the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol, the CAT.
  2. (Crimes against Humanity) Allow an independent international body that is fully accountable to all stakeholders to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity and prosecute the perpetrators responsible for such crimes.
  3. (Freedom of Expression, Assembly and Association) Immediately and unconditionally release the 2,189 people imprisoned for exercising their basic civil and political rights, such as the right to association, assembly, and expression.
  4. (Administration of Justice, Impunity and the Rule of Law) Allow the ICRC full and unrestricted access to places of detention and allow individual monitoring of detainees and prisoners by the ICRC in accordance with its standard procedures, to prevent torture, mistreatment, and enforced disappearances and to safeguard the physical and psychological health of prisoners.
  5. (Religious, Ethnic Minorities and Indigenous Peoples) Abandon the policy and practice of discrimination, forced assimilation and persecution against ethnic and religious minorities and unconditionally lift all restrictive and discriminatory measures and practices.
  6. (Women’s Rights) Establish and enforce strict legislation criminalizing rape in every context, including marital rape and rape by the military; and put an end to the impunity of the perpetrators of sexual violence.
  7. (Poverty and Humanitarian Assistance) Prioritize policy reform and budget allocation to divert budget spending from the military to help meet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and ensure basic needs such as clean water, food, shelter and electricity are provided to all people throughout the country.
  8. (Land, Housing and Property Rights and Development) Immediately cease violations of housing, land and property rights, including the illegal appropriation of land and property, and the forcible eviction and displacement of civilians.
  9. (Trafficking in Persons) Eliminate all forms of discrimination of women in migration measures, including the directive forbidding women under the age of twenty-five from travelling without a legal guardian.
  10. (Labour Rights) Allow the ILO regular and unfettered access to the entire country and increase the number of ILO offices throughout the country, ensuring there is an ILO office in all states and divisions and increase the number of staff to allow the ILO to effectively fulfill its mandate.
  11. (Elections and Post-Elections Political Environment) Seek technical assistance from the UN to investigate all allegations of election related human rights violations, including widespread electoral fraud, ballot stuffing, vote rigging, denial of the right to a secret ballot, vote buying; violence, intimidation and coercion, and arrests during the 2010 elections, as well as the  conduct of the Union Election Commission which lacked independence and transparency.
  12. (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) Ensure Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s utmost safety, given the attempt on her life after her release from house arrest during the Depayin incident in May 2003 in which at least 70 of her supporters were killed.
  13. (Increased Militarization in Ethnic Areas) Allow the good offices of the UN Secretary General to facilitate an inclusive tripartite dialogue between SPDC, ethnic nationality representatives, including armed groups, prodemocracy movement, led by the NLD, in effort to resolve current conflicts and broker a nationwide cease fire agreement.
  • Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR) is composed of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPP-B), Arakan Rivers Network (ARN), Burma Fund UN Office, Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC), Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Emergency Act Team vs Backpack Health Worker Team, Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), Foundation for Education and Development (FED), Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Human Rights Foundation of Mon Land (HURFOM), Kachin Women’s Organization Thailand (KWAT), Kaladan Press Bangladesh, Shwe Gas Movement, and Women and Child Rights Project (WCRP)
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