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2 April 2007

The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro; the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall; the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of recism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène; the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari; the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler; and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt:

Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, the members of the Muslim minority in North Rakhine State, generally known as the Rohingyas, have been denied Myanmar citizenship, which has seriously curtailed the full exercise of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and led to various discriminatory practices. This includes severe restrictions on freedom of movement; various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation and forced evictions; restricted access to medical care, food and adequate housing; forced labor; and restrictions on marriages. As a consequence, thousands have fled to neighbouring countries, in turn creating complex humanitarian situations in the region.

We call on the Government of Myanmar to take urgent measures to eliminate discriminatory practices against the Muslim minority in North Rakhine State, and to ensure that no further discrimination is carried out against persons belonging to this community. We remind the Government of its obligation to protect all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction from any form of discrimination.

We reiterate the important role of minority rights in promoting equitable development, peace and stability, as enshrined in the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

We urge the Government of Myanmar to repeal or amend the 1982 Citizenship Law to ensure compliance of its legislation with the country’s international human rights obligations, including article 7 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and to guarantee that the right to nationality as enunciated in article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination finds meaningful expression within Myanmar's borders.