Quintana urges action on human rights

Dec 10, 2008 (DVB), United Nations special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana has described the situation of political prisoners as "a permanent and constant human rights violation" and called for concrete action on human rights before 2010.

Quintana, the special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, was speaking to DVB on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the 10 December anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He described the human rights situation in Burma as "challenging" and said no improvements had taken place in the past year.

"Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the government has signed," he said yesterday.

"This instrument is the most important human rights instrument of the international community from all regions in the world, and all countries and all governments should respect the human rights which are established in this instrument."

Quintana condemned the recent long-term prison sentences handed down to activists and said he had joined five other special rapporteurs from the Human Rights Council in releasing a press statement against the sentences.

"There is no independent and impartial judiciary in the country," he said.

"The government is using these judges to try to say that these sentences are legal sentences which I do not believe they are."

Quintana, whose own father was a political prisoner, said he had interviewed political prisoners in Insein prison during his visit to Burma in August this year."I believe that the situation of a political prisoner is a permanent and constant human rights violation," he said."But I believe that at some point this has to finish, the political prisoners will be released and I am doing my best to get the release of all political prisoners in the country."

The special rapporteur reiterated the four concrete steps he had suggested the Burmese government take before the 2010 elections.

These were the progressive release of political prisoners, the establishment of an independent judiciary, reform of the military and reform of domestic laws which are incompatible with international human rights norms.

"I am asking the international community from all regions in the world to help me to implement these core human rights elements, to make the government of Myanmar understand that they should implement these recommendations if they want to be part of the international community," he said.

Quintana said he intended to visit Burma again before March 2009 and planned to push for all government agencies and military personnel to respect the basic human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Reporting by Nay Htoo

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