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Myanmar: UN Expert Welcomes Latest Release of Prisoners of Conscience, but Raises Alarm over Ongoing Arrests

By Tomas Ojea Quintana  •  July 29, 2013

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has welcomed the latest presidential amnesty on 23 July resulting in the release of 73 prisoners of conscience, while raising concerns over ongoing arrests of activists.

“The release of prisoners of conscience continues to be one of the most tangible outcomes of Myanmar’s reforms,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “However, I am very concerned about ongoing arrests and sentencing.”

“I believe there are still arrests and trials taking place that are politically motivated, including individuals involved in protests against land confiscation as well as people working to defend human rights in Rakhine State. I intend to follow up on these cases during my upcoming mission to Myanmar next month,” the UN the independent expert said.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that addressing this issue involved reforming laws such as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act and the Unlawful Associations Act, as well as the development of an independent judiciary in Myanmar.

“I also hope that the new prisoner review committee becomes more transparent in the important work it is doing, including with regard to the criteria used to determine prisoners of conscience,” Mr. Ojea Quintana noted.

“Furthermore, the committee should be given the mandate to investigate new cases that may be politically motivated, and recommend necessary institutional and legislative reforms,” underscored the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

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