UN Human Rights Council to hold special session on Myanmar next week

UN Human Rights Council to hold special session on Myanmar next week

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The United Nations Human Rights Council has announced it will hold a special meeting on 2 October to discuss the situation in Myanmar, amid growing calls for authorities in the Southeast Asian nation to exercise restraint in dealing with ongoing protests.

Myanmar has recently witnessed a wave of peaceful demonstrations, which began last month in protest against a surge in fuel prices and more recently have included many of the country’s monks.

The 47-member Council, which today suspended its sixth session until 10 December, decided to hold the emergency meeting following a request by a number of countries.

This will be the fifth special session convened by the Geneva-based Council since it was set up in June 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights.

The deteriorating situation in the country prompted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to dispatch his Special Envoy to the region earlier this week. Ibrahim Gambari held meetings at Singapore’s Foreign Ministry today and is expected to arrive in Myanmar tomorrow.

Mr. Ban’s call for restraint by Myanmar authorities in responding to the demonstrations has been echoed by a number of the world body’s officials.

Today the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned the killing of Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai, who was shot dead on 27 September while covering a demonstration in Rangoon.

Decrying the use of violence against journalists and protesters in Myanmar, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura called on the authorities to respect the professional work of reporters regardless of their country of origin.

“Freedom of expression and press freedom are basic human rights and allowing the media to express different views can only help achieve the national reconciliation we all wish for Myanmar,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today it was deeply concerned about the situation in the country, especially the effects of the violence on women and children.

UNICEF’s Veronique Taveau told reporters in Geneva today that with much of the Myanmar’s population already struggling to survive – with a significant number of children malnourished – the current violence could only lead to a further deterioration and restrictions on UNICEF’s ability to reach the most vulnerable.