UN envoy calls for respect for basic rights

Oct 10, 2008 (DVB), United Nations rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana has set out four basic requirements that need to be met by the Burmese government if the 2010 elections are to be credible.

Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, issued a report setting out these requirements earlier this week, according to a statement released by the UN.

"Respect for international human rights standards is indispensable in paving the road to democracy," Quintana said.

"Myanmar is going through a unique moment in its political history," he said, noting the adoption of the regime's new constitution in May this year."The next step in the road map for national reconciliation and democratic transition is the election in 2010."

In order for these elections to be considered credible and a transition to democracy to come about, Quintana said that human rights should be fully respected.

Firstly, he called on the regime to amend and domestic legislation which restricts fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and association.

"The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as well as the right to freedom of opinion and expression, are fundamental rights to be respected in the process towards the establishment of a solid and reliable democracy," he said, as quoted in the UN statement.

"However, full enjoyment of those rights remains outstanding in Myanmar, according to reliable reports on the extension of detentions and/or new arrests of political activists."

The special rapporteur said the progressive release of the more than 2000 prisoners of conscience was vital to give credibility to the 2010 elections.

In preparation for a transition to a multi-party democracy, the special rapporteur urged the government to respect democratic values by repealing discriminatory legislation and acting on issues such as the recruitment of child soldiers.

Quintana also called on the government to and bring in a number of changes for the judiciary to increase its independence from the government, describing it currently as "under the direct control of the government and the military".

National League for Democracy spokesperson Nyan Win agreed with the points set out by Quintana.

"The basic four points he put forward are essential to building a democratic country," he said.

However, pro-democracy activists have previously criticised the UN for focusing on the 2010 elections, which they say legitimises the constitution adopted by the military regime after a referendum marred by reports of intimidation and corruption.

Quintana visited Burma in August and held meetings with NLD members and political prisoners, among others.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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