International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekly Highlights: UN Special Rapporteur’s Recent Mission to Burma Underlines Continuing Importance of Mandate

 

17-23 February 2014

Weekly Highlights

UN Special Rapporteur's Recent Mission to Burma Underlines Continuing Importance of Mandate

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, last week concluded his final mission to Burma, having served the maximum of six years permitted under his mandate. His end-of-mission statement, issued at Rangoon International Airport on 19 February, provides a thematic summary of some of the most pressing human rights issues that Burma currently faces, as well as an overview of certain key stops on his itinerary, most notably Kachin and Arakan States.

Special Rapporteur Quintana's statement highlights two salient points. First, the human rights situation in Burma is evidently still very serious indeed, with little or no progress made in some areas. As Special Rapporteur Quintana says: "For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of [Burma]. State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government. Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in [Burma]. Tackling the situation in [Arakan] State represents a particular challenge which, if left unaddressed, could jeopardize the entire reform process. A critical challenge will be to secure ceasefire and political agreements with ethnic minority groups, so that [Burma] can finally transform into a peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-religious society." In other areas, such as "the release of prisoners of conscience, the opening up of space for freedom of expression, the development of political freedoms, and important progress in securing an end to fighting in the ethnic border areas," reforms are in grave danger of backsliding, as Special Rapporteur Quintana says was acknowledged by a senior government official in Naypyidaw.

Second, it is clear that the Special Rapporteur plays a vital role in monitoring what is happening inside Burma, analyzing and condensing the information for the international community, and in mobilizing relevant actors such as the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to take appropriate action. It is hard to make the argument that Burma no longer requires a Special Rapporteur mandate based only on some tentative reforms in certain areas, such as the release of political prisoners. Set among the smorgasbord of unsavory issues on Burma's plate, such reforms are little more than garnish intended to make Burma palatable to the international community.

Furthermore, not only is a Special Rapporteur still entirely necessary; one with a full monitoring mandate under Item 4 is needed to ensure continuing monitoring and reporting to the HRC on human rights developments in Burma. Since Item 4 is intended for countries requiring the HRC's continuing attention, it is clear from Special Rapporteur Quintana's statement that Burma still merits an Item 4 mandate. Moreover, a country-specific resolution on Burma must be drafted and passed during the HRC's upcoming session.

By the same token, the need for the establishment of a UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Burma is indicated by the litany of human rights concerns, and anything less than an office with a full promotion and protection mandate cannot currently be justified. The UN and Burma government are currently at an impasse regarding the establishment of such an office, with the Burma government unwilling to accept an office with a full mandate. It is also trying to negotiate, as part of such discussions, a reduction in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur – to an Item 10 mandate which entails only "technical cooperation" – or the abolishment of the Special Rapporteur mandate altogether.

It is clear that the Burma government's ideal scenario would be no Special Rapporteur and no OHCHR office. That way, it would have carte blanche to commit or permit all manner of human rights abuses without anyone interfering, while at the same time sitting at the top table of international legitimacy. However, if it is serious about its stage-managed political reforms, the Burma government should pay close attention to Special Rapporteur Quintana's expert and independent advice, appreciate the severity and fragility of the status quo in Burma, and do everything that it can to improve the human rights situation for the benefit of the people of Burma. If not, the so-called reforms thus far will reveal themselves to be nothing more than an elaborate charade.

On the other hand, the human rights community of Burma and their solidarity networks across the world are enormously grateful to Special Rapporteur Quintana for his years of hard work, commitment and persistence, for his principled and balanced stance, and for his bravery in the face of some fairly serious obstacles. We wish him all the best for his future, and hope that Burma is fortunate enough to be allocated a new Special Rapporteur of a similar caliber and with equivalent credentials when the HRC meets in March.

 

News Highlights

 

NLD and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society to target Article 436 of the 2008 Constitution which gives the military an effective veto over constitutional amendments while Parliamentary Speaker Thura Shwe Mann sends a letter to the Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee urging them to review key constitutional reforms no later than six months before the 2015 elections

 

Inside Burma

A bill proposing amendments to Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law reducing punishment draws criticism from opposition MPs and activists who say the law should be abolished

President Thein Sein and Parliamentary speakers nominate 15 members of the new anti-corruption commission while Parliament sets a September deadline for relevant government bodies to resolve land confiscation cases

Parliament sets aside US$7.14 million for peace process in 2014-15 budget yet Shan Human Rights Foundation says that six foreign-backed hydropower projects along the Salween River could negatively affect current peace efforts

Census data collection to start one month early in remote and conflict areas of Kachin State

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission disagree about numbers of patients treated in the aftermath of the alleged violence in Du Char Yar Tan village, Arakan State, while residents send petition to President Thein Sein urging the expulsion of MSF on grounds of discrimination and disinformation

Four Latpadaung villagers are arrested for protesting for the release of activist Thaw Zin and Nay Myo Zin, Coordinator of Myanmar Social Life Development Network, faces court on 4 March on charges under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for leading farmers' protests

Twelve farmers sentenced to terms between 6 months and three years for allegedly damaging a teak plantation situated on land confiscated from them and now owned by a government connected company

Investigations are underway over prison riot in Pyinmana, Mandalay Region, but the location of many prisoners is as yet undisclosed

Mandalay literature event is cancelled after Buddhist monks intervene to stop Muslim activists speaking, with political as well as religious motives suspected, though President Thein Sein's office expresses concern at the disruptions

Burma plans to extend opium cultivation substitution projects in northern Shan State in cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime

 

Regional

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing, visits Indonesia to discuss military cooperation

ASEAN meeting of High Level Task Force on Economic Integration begins in Rangoon

Chinese Red Cross to provide US$800million in humanitarian aid to IDPs in Kachin State

Ambassador for North Korea meets Burma's Vice-President, Sai Mauk Kham, in Naypyidaw to discuss mutual development

 

International

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launches an outreach program in Sittwe, Arakan State, to educate the public about UN and NGO work

EU conducts a training program for Burma's police force on crowd control

 

Opinion

Silence as Burma 'Genocide' Unfolds
By Nancy Hudson-Rodd
Asia Times Online

Making 'Rule of Law' a Reality in Burma
By Sam Zarifi
Democratic Voice of Burma

Optimism Suffers Setback in Myanmar but Believers in Democracy Press On
By Susanne Dumbleton
Global Post

Latest from the Blog

 

Upcoming Census is a Grave Threat to National Reconciliation and Should Be Postponed

By Burma Partnership

 

Actions

TAKE ACTION! Send a letter to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague to call on the British government to stop training the Burma Army until it takes action to end human rights abuses and agrees to democratic reforms

More than 30 ethnic political parties and civil society organisations call on the government to revise details and numbers of ethnic groups before national census

Arakanese monk makes pilgrimage through Arakan State from Sittwe to Mrauk U to support peace and development in Burma

Statements and Press Releases

ASEAN Civil Society Organizations Reaffirm Commitment for Independent Peoples' Forum at the 4th Regional Consultation Meeting
By ACSC/APF 2014 Organizing Committee

Myanmar: Token Changes to Repressive Anti-Protest Law are Insignificant
By Amnesty International

Burma's Census Must Be Postponed New Briefing From Burma Campaign UK
By Burma Campaign UK

Myanmar Migrant Workers in Thailand Face Visa Extension and Passport Issuance Chaos and Extortion
By Migrant Worker Rights Network

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
By Tomás Ojea Quintana

Reports

Burma's Census – Not Worth Dying For
By Burma Campaign UK

Japanese Government Plan for Development of Southeast Burma
By Karen Environmental and Social Action Network

Contact Us | Privacy Policy
© Burma Partnership

Visit us at the following social networking sites.       

             

 



This message was sent to icfab8888.peacefulway@blogger.com from:

Burma Partnership | http://www.burmapartnership.org | Muang, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

Email Marketing by iContact - Try It Free!

Manage Your Subscription  |  Forward This Message

No comments:

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."