Statement by Ambassador Rick Barton, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, UN Third Committee

Ambassador Rick Barton
U.S. Representative 
New York, NY
October 20, 2010




AS DELIVERED

The United States welcomes the report of Special Rapporteur Ojea Quintana and thanks him for his work over the past 24 months. The Special Rapporteur’s report paints a grim picture of the continuing human rights situation in the country. We regret that the Special Rapporteur was not permitted a visit before the elections.

The United States believes the upcoming elections will not be free, fair or credible if held under oppressive political conditions there, including restrictive election laws that stifle meaningful competition and the continued detention of more than 2,100 political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. We reiterate the SR’s call on the government to release all of these prisoners immediately. Further, the integrity of the election is compromised when many of those residing in ethnic minority states are not permitted to vote at all. The process cannot be inclusive when longstanding representative parties, such as the National League for Democracy, are not participating.

The United States shares the Special Rapporteur’s concerns about the alarming number of prisoners of conscience in the country. We are also concerned by the lack of an independent judiciary, and note that many lawyers are imprisoned. Other lawyers are harassed and held in contempt of court for trying to provide proper legal representation to their clients. Finally, the Special Rapporteur points out that resolving issues with ethnic minorities is vital to national reconciliation. He expressed alarm, as have many, at the deteriorating conditions along the borders.

· Can the Special Rapporteur discuss his observations from the border and what steps should be taken to help resolve the longstanding ethnic issues?

The Special Rapporteur correctly notes that freedoms to hold opinions without interference, of expression, of association, and of peaceful assembly are all vital to the holding of credible, free and fair elections. The government currently severely restricts all of these rights, and the Special Rapporteur further states that journalists are afraid to address matters related to the Constitution and elections.

· Has the Special Rapportuer received any indication that the government plans to review or revoke the statutes restricting freedom of opinion, expression, association, or assembly?

Our overriding objective is to promote a peaceful democratic transition, encourage national reconciliation, and achieve respect for human rights. In this context, the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that the UN consider the creation of a Commission of Inquiry is significant. After carefully considering the issues, the United States believes that a properly structured international COI that would examine allegations of serious violations of international law could provide an opportunity for achieving our shared objective of advancing human rights there.

The Special Rapporteur raises numerous issues which other countries will doubtless focus on. The United States again thanks Mr. Ojea Quintana for his tireless work in the cause of human rights.

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PRN: 2010/236