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Myanmar: UN Special Rapporteur hails reforms, but warns of “risk of backtracking”

“Risk of backtracking”

06 February 2012

YANGON / GENEVA (6 February 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said the recent wave of reforms has already had a positive impact on the country and its people, but warned that serious challenges remain and must be addressed to improve the human rights situation in Myanmar and deepen its transition to democracy.

“There is a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved thus far,” the UN rights expert stressed at the end of his fifth mission* to Myanmar. “At this crucial moment in the country’s history, further and sustained action should be taken to bring about further change.”

“Moving forward cannot ignore or whitewash what happened in the past,” Mr. Ojea Quintana noted. “Facing Myanmar’s own recent history and acknowledging the violations that people have suffered will be necessary to ensure national reconciliation and to prevent future violations from occurring.” It remains his firm conviction that justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, are fundamental to the process.

The Special Rapporteur said that the upcoming by-elections on 1 April will be a key test of how far the Government has progressed in its process of reform. “It is essential that they are truly free, fair, inclusive and transparent,” he stressed, revealing that he had been informed that “the use of international observers was under consideration.”

During his six-day mission, Mr. Ojea Quintana held talks with Government ministers, members of Parliament, the Attorney-General, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, and representatives of the Union Election Commission. He also met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the recently-established National Human Rights Commission, and representatives of civil society organisations and ethnic parties. Additionally, the UN rights expert met with three prisoners of conscience in Insein Prison, as well as with released prisoners of conscience.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar called on the international community “to remain engaged and support and assist the Government during this important time.”

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.

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