UN rights expert calls Myanmar election process ‘deeply flawed’

21 October 2010

An independent United Nations human rights expert expressed disappointment today that Myanmar’s process for its upcoming elections – the nation’s first in two decades – is “deeply flawed,” urging the release of all prisoners of conscience, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, told reporters in New York today that “conditions for the general elections are limited under the current circumstances,” adding that the potential for the polls to bring meaningful change remain uncertain.

“I believe that the Myanmar Government needs to send a strong signal to the international community about its commitment to hold genuine elections, and the unconditional and immediate release of prisoners of conscience would be such a signal,” he said.

Yesterday, the expert presented his report focusing on the landmark 7 November elections, only the third multiparty poll in more than 60 years since independence, to the General Assembly.

He told the 192-member body that the freedoms of expression and assembly have been further restricted through the implementation of election laws, while party registration requirements and the high cost of registering candidates have hampered parties not backed by the Government.

“It is clear that the process has not been inclusive,” Mr. Quintana stressed.

The Government, he said, has rightfully pointed out that elections are only one step in Myanmar’s transition to democracy. “We must remember that true national reconciliation and a commitment to protecting and promoting human rights are also necessary for any real transition.”

The Rapporteur, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, underlined the key role played by justice and accountability in this transition.

“We have seen too many cases in the world of incomplete transitions that have sacrificed justice for the mistaken notion that this would achieve peace and stability,” he said. “Now is the time to end the widespread and systematic violations of human rights that have been occurring in Myanmar for decades.”

Since assuming his position in May 2008, Mr. Quintana has visited Myanmar three times, meeting with prisoners of conscience and senior executive and judicial authorities.

He expressed regret that his last request to visit the country in August was not granted. “I strongly believe that direct dialogue with the authorities and other stakeholders through country visits is indispensable for the conduct of my mandate.”

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