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Myanmar: UN human rights expert concerned about situation of prisoners of conscience on hunger strike and the healthcare of jailed Buddhist monk

GENEVA (8 November 2011) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, on Tuesday expressed concern about the situation of prisoners of conscience on hunger strike, and also about the health of Buddhist monk U Gambira, who needs urgent medical care.

The Special Rapporteur has received reports that 15 prisoners of conscience, currently on hunger strike in Insein prison in Myanmar, are being tortured or ill-treated, and that they have been denied drinking water. Eight of the prisoners have reportedly been held in dog cells.

Mr. Ojea Quintana also raised concerns about the case of another prisoner of conscience, Shin Gambira, held in Kalay Prison in Kalay District, Myanmar. The Special Rapporteur had visited Shin Gambira in jail in 2008.

“I am deeply concerned about the state of Shin Gambira’s health,” the Special Rapporteur said. “I have received information that he was beaten during his transfer between prisons, leaving him suffering fits of extreme pain. He needs urgent access to medical care”.

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Government of international standards – such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment - as the basis for humane treatment of prisoners. The Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee have also consistently found that conditions of detention can amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call for all prisoners of conscience to be freed and urged that the government investigate all allegations of mistreatment of prisoners, including Shin Gambira.

On 13 October 2011, the Special Rapporteur had welcomed the Government's release of over 200 prisoners of conscience as “an important further step by the authorities in Myanmar to respond to international concern and advance political reconciliation in the country.”

“Pending further prisoner releases, the Government should take immediate measures to improve the conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners in compliance with international standards,” the Special Rapporteur said. “This is the time for Myanmar to not only release prisoners of conscience, but embark on more comprehensive prison reforms.”
(*) Check the preliminary observations from the Special Rapporteur’s latest mission to Myanmar (21-25 August 2011): http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11330&LangID=E

ENDS
Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

For additional information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/mm/mandate/index.htm

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests:

In Geneva: Robert Vaughan (+ 41 22 928 9188 / rvaughan@ohchr.org)
In New York: Fred Kirungi (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org)

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