Burma to submit rights report to UN

The Burmese government has finished the first draft of a human rights report destined for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) early next year, domestic media has reported.

The Universal Periodic Review is being compiled by the Myanmar Human Rights Committee, led by home affairs minister Maung Oo. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said on Sunday that a meeting was held in Naypyidaw to review the second draft.

“If it is complete, the second draft will be submitted to the Myanmar Human Right Report Compilation Work,” the newspaper said.

Members of the council are required to submit periodical reviews of their rights records. While Burma is not technically a member, it has been given ‘Special Procedure’ status by the UNHRC to address human rights violations in the country.

As part of the Special Procedure, Burma was assigned a UN special rapporteur, Tomas Ojea Quintana, to investigate rights abuses in the country. He filed a high-profile report to the Security Council last month calling for a UN investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Burma.

But during an attempted visit to the country earlier this month, Quintana was denied a visa. His assistant, Hannnah Wu, the UN’s human rights officer in Bangkok, told DVB today that “the [Burmese] government was busy at the time he requested. It’s not good to speculate – they had their reasons”.

She added that visiting Burma was “something [Quintana] considers very important to conduct his mandate”.

Once submitted, the Review becomes of three reports – including a stakeholders’ report and a summary of UN information – analysed by a UNHRC session known as the Working Group.

“They have three hours in the Working Group to look at the situation on the basis of these [reports], and of course delegates will do their job to talk to whoever they think necessary, including those with the information and those who can advise,” Wu said.

“But it’s totally their responsibility to understand what is said in the report and what is the reality, so it’s really in the hands of the UNHRC members.”

Quintana’s visit would have come three months before controversial elections in Burma, slated for 7 November. It also comes at a time when key players in the international community, including the US, have backed the UN commission of inquiry suggested by Quintana to investigate whether Burmese junta chief Than Shwe should be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Washington only became a member of the UNHRC last year, having cited membership of so-called ‘rogue states’ and apparent disproportionate criticism of Israel as reasons not to join.

Gross rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese junta and its army are believed to include forced labour and rape as a weapon of war, while some 2,150 activists, politicians, journalists and aid workers are behind bars. Some believe the government is also carrying out gradual ethnic cleansing of Burma’s volatile border regions, some of which have hosted 60-year civil wars.

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