A United Nations independent human rights expert today voiced hope that he will be able to hold talks with pro-democracy leader and Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi when he visits Myanmar next week.
“It would be important for me to meet with political party leaders in the context of this year’s landmark elections,” said Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, ahead of his 15-19 February visit to the country – his third – at the invitation of the Government.
This year’s national elections – the first in over two decades – are the fifth step in its seven-step roadmap to democracy, according to the Government.
Mr. Quintana, who will wrap up his mission with a press conference at the Yangon airport, called 2010 “a critical time for the people of Myanmar.”
He said that he seeks to review and report on progress made in implementing the four core human rights elements he has recommended, including the revision of national laws to comply with international human rights standards and the release of prisoners of conscience.
Last October, the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to release all political prisoners before this year’s polls so that they can be as inclusive as possible.
“I told the Government that these elections should be fair and transparent, that freedom of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed in the country, and of course that all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” he said.
In his most recent report on the issue, Mr. Quintana said the Government missed an opportunity to prove its commitment to holding inclusive elections by extending the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Ms. Suu Kyi, effectively barring her from participating in the polls.
Ms. Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD) and , was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months of house arrest. She was reportedly convicted of violating state security laws after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to her home.
During his visit next week, the expert also plans to travel to Northern Rahkine State to assess the human rights situation first-hand.
Mr. Quintana, who was appointed Special Rapporteur in May 2008, reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity. He will present his findings from his upcoming visit to the 47-member body in March.