UPR of Burma to military regime: Halt all Human Rights Violations!

Press Release: Universal Periodic Review of Burma: Total Denial in the Face of Widespread and Systematic Human Rights Violations

Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR)

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPP-B), Arakan Rivers Network (ARN), Burma Fund UN Office, Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC), Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Emergency Act Team vs Backpack Health Worker Team, Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), Foundation for Education and Development (FED), Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Human Rights Foundation of Mon Land (HURFOM), Kachin Women’s Organization Thailand (KWAT), Kaladan Press Bangladesh, Shwe Gas Movement, Women and Child Rights Project (WCRP)

27 January 2011

Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva examined Burma’s human rights record as part of its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Burma’s ruling military regime sent a large delegation to Geneva, led by Deputy Attorney General Dr. Tun Shin, who categorically denied state-orchestrated widespread, systematic and persistent human rights violations against the people of Burma.

Throughout the three-hour UPR dialogue, States raised numerous concerns, including the issue of political prisoners, treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, and impunity for perpetrators of gross human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity. Despite well-documented evidence to the contrary, the Burmese delegation said that, “Accusations of rape against ethnic women are baseless, with the aim of discrediting armed forces.” They claimed, “The armed forces have a zero tolerance policy towards serious human rights violations, including sexual violence,” and that “There is no widespread occurrence of human rights violations with impunity.”

More than 2,190 people are languishing in Burma’s prisons for peacefully exercising their basic civil and political rights, but the Director General of Prisons Zaw Win said, “They are imprisoned because they have breached prevailing laws, not because of their political beliefs.” He even went as far as to claim that, “There are no prison deaths resulting from torture.” However, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, a member of the Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR), has documented the deaths of 146 political prisoners in detention since 1988, due to torture and denial of medical treatment.

Representatives of the BF-UPR, a coalition of fourteen human rights and civil society organizations, were in Geneva for the Review.

BF-UPR representative Aung Myo Min said, “The military regime’s dismissal of any criticism of its human rights record and their refusal to even acknowledge the abuses that are taking place underscores the urgent need for an international independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Establishing a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry is an essential first step to ending the culture of impunity and deterring human rights violations.

“Despite the claims made in the regime’s National Report to the UPR that the rights to freedom of religion and non-discrimination are guaranteed under law, Burma’s ethnic and religious minorities face ongoing persecution as part of a state policy of forced assimilation,” added BF-UPR representative Salai Ling.

In its National Report, the regime also claimed it is “bringing about balanced development… to enable the national races to enjoy the benefit of development”. BF-UPR representative Paul Sein Twa said, “The right to free, prior and informed consent is denied in Burma, so large-scale development initiatives like dams and extractive projects rarely benefit affected communities. They disrupt local livelihoods, and lead to further impoverishment.  In reality such development projects have resulted in gross human rights violations, including mass displacement and forced labour, especially in ethnic areas.”

Meanwhile, it is deeply disappointing that all nine member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chose to commend the regime on its 7 November elections as a positive development while failing to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in eastern Burma as a result of intensified armed conflict since the elections, which has caused thousands of refugees to flee into neighbouring countries. Their expressions of support on the implementation of the 7-Step Roadmap is also of particular concern, as the Roadmap fails to genuinely include all stakeholders in the country, and has resulted in a deeply flawed Constitution that enshrines impunity and fails to meet international human rights norms and standards.

The Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review urges the military regime to act now and immediately halt all human rights violations and accept the numerous recommendations made during the Review including: immediately and unconditionally releasing all political prisoners; reforming the judiciary; ratifying and effectively implementing all international human rights treaties; ensuring full rights to ethnic and religious minorities both in law and in practice; and in particular, the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in line with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar’s recommendation, as proposed by the Czech Republic.

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