Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Burma condemned by UN Human Rights Council

Geneva (dpa) - The governments of Sudan and Burma were condemned before the UN Human Rights Council Tuesday for failing to improve human rights in their countries.

The special rapporteur on Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, visited the country in November following the military crackdown on peaceful street protests led by hundreds of monks which began on September 18.

He said the government showed no signs of ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms while acknowledging they had opened a dialogue with the UN by allowing him access.

He told the council, which resumed its sixth session in Geneva Monday that decades of denying basic civil and political rights had compromised standards of living for the whole population.

"By severely restricting the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the government has prevented over many years the emergence of a platform for genuine public dialogue," he said.

During his five-day visit, he found 16 people had been killed in addition to the 15 listed by the authorities, 74 people had "disappeared" and 653 people were detained after troops broke up the protests that had lasted several days.

He urged the government to release anyone still detained and grant amnesty to those sentenced or awaiting trial. He also called for an independent investigation into the killings.

The Human Rights Council was also told Tuesday, despite cooperation from the government of Sudan, there had been very little actual improvement in human rights in Darfur.

The final report by a seven-strong panel of experts stated few recommendations made by the panel in March had been "fully implemented" and many had not yet been addressed.

The panel, which was refused access to the region for its mission in February, had accused the government of complicity in killings and rapes carried out by Janjaweed Arab militia and others in a preliminary report in March.

The Council, which relies on cooperation to enforce its recommendations, is due to vote on resolutions on Darfur and Burma when its session ends on Friday.

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