Quintana says rights situation in Burma 'challenging'

Feb 20, 2009 (DVB), United Nations special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana has said the human rights situation in Burma remains challenging, but noted some positive signs at the end of his second visit to the country.

Speaking at a press conference in Rangoon before he left Burma yesterday, Quintana said he could not say the situation had tangibly improved.

"The human rights situation in Myanmar is still challenging. It is difficult for me to affirm that the human rights situation has improved," he said.

"However, I have to say, regarding my recommendations to the government, I found positive signs."

The special rapporteur said some steps had been taken on the four human rights recommendations he set out during his last visit in August 2008.

Quintana's proposals at that time were the progressive release of political prisoners, a review of domestic laws that do not comply with international human rights standards, reform of the military and the establishment of an independent judiciary.

Quintana said he had discussed the issue of political prisoners with the minister of home affairs, who said he would consider the special rapporteur's recommendation.

On the issue of domestic legislation, Quintana said the Burmese government had started the process of reviewing the relevant laws.

Some steps had also been taken towards addressing the impartiality of the judiciary, Quintana said.

The special rapporteur said he had met the chief justice and discussed cooperating with independent judges and lawyers of the UN in order to start a process of reforming the judiciary.

Quintana spent six days in Burma from 14 to 19 February to assess human rights developments made since his last visit.

During his trip, he visited Pa-an and Insein prisons where he spoke to five political prisoners, and met representatives of armed ceasefire groups as well as speaking to a number of government officials.

Reporting by DVB

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