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Human Rights Council – Discussion of Report on the Human Rights Situation in Burma
March 15, 2010

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar

Agenda Item 4

Statement of the United States of America
Delivered by Douglas Griffiths
Deputy Permanent Represenative

Human Rights Council, Geneva

March 15, 2010

(As Delivered)

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States welcomes the report of Special Rapporteur Ojea Quintana and thanks him for his work over the past 18 months. His report paints a grim picture of the continuing human rights tragedy in the country. The rapporteur’s recommendation that the UN consider creating a Commission of Inquiry is significant. We are carefully considering all of his recommendations, including the idea of a Commission of Inquiry. This recommendation serves to underscore the seriousness of the human rights problems in the country and the pressing need for the international community to find an effective way to address challenges there.

We note that since the release of Mr. Quintana’s report, the government has promulgated its electoral laws. While the election date has not been set, we are deeply disappointed with the laws, which exclude all of the country’s more than 2,000 political prisoners from political participation, impose onerous restrictions on political activity, and limit the ability of political parties to operate and organize. We are also troubled that the law appears to bar National League of Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office—and that it may in fact prohibit her from membership in her own party. This is a serious step in the wrong direction. As announced, the law offers little prospect for holding the free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections that the international community has called for.

The Special Rapporteur notes that freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly are all vital for credible, free and fair elections. The government currently severely restricts all of these rights through a series of laws, and the Rapporteur further states that there are at least 12 journalists and many more bloggers in prison. Has the Special Rapporteur received any indication that the government plans to review or revoke the restrictive statutes?

The United States shares the Mr. Quintana’s concern about the alarming number of prisoners of conscience in the country, and about the harsh conditions to which they are subjected in Burmese prisons. The Rapporteur raised concerns about the independence of the judiciary, noting that 11 lawyers are currently imprisoned. He also noted that lawyers are harassed and held in contempt of court for trying to provide proper legal representation to their clients. We hope that the authorities abide by the UN Basic Principles for the Role of Lawyers and that they follow through on their commitment to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to visit.

The United States shares the Rapporteur’s concerns about reports of civilians being forced to labor for military construction projects, and about recruitment of child soldiers by the government and armed groups. We hope that the government will put into practice its commitments to eradicate forced labor, including by fully and effectively implementing the 1997 ILO recommendations.

Mr. Quintana raised numerous other issues which other countries will doubtless focus on. The United States again thanks Mr. Ojea Quintana for his tireless work in the cause of human rights for the Burmese people.

Thank you, Mr. President.