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Special Rapporteur’s Report Paints Grim Picture of the Continuing Human Rights Tragedy in Burma
March 14, 2011

UN Human Rights Council 16th Session
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma

Statement by the Delegation of the United States
Delivered by Margaret Wang

March 14, 2011

Thank you, Mr. President. The United States welcomes the report of Special Rapporteur Ojea Quintana and thanks him for the work he has done over the past 24 months. We are disappointed that the Special Rapporteur has not been invited into the country despite his requests since February 2010. We strongly support his readmission at the earliest possible date, and urge a positive response by the government to the requests of several other special rapporteurs who have requested visits.

The Special Rapporteur’s report paints a grim picture of the continuing human rights tragedy in the country. Systematic human rights abuses continue. The Special Rapporteur cites an increase in the number of prisoners of conscience in the run up to the elections. As the cases he cites illustrate, part of this increase has resulted from the arrest of persons engaging in free expression about the elections. As the Special Rapporteur makes clear, thousands of prisoners of conscience continue to be held in deplorable conditions and tens of thousands of ethnic minority persons are fleeing into neighboring countries to avoid persecution. While the government claims to be investigating abuses, the information provided to the international community by the government is inconsistent, contradictory, unreliable, and unverifiable.

The Special Rapporteur focused on the glaring deficiencies regarding the right to education in the country. The government allocates far fewer resources, in percentage terms, on education than its ASEAN neighbors. Predictably, the results are high drop-out rates and dismal graduation rates. Government organized violence makes the situation even worse in the ethnic regions, where schools are often closed or students cannot attend.

All of the above issues have a root cause—the lack of freedom and democracy in the country. Democratic governments must answer to their citizens regarding the distribution of national resources, prison conditions, law enforcement issues, and the general respect for human rights. The November elections were neither free nor fair, resulting in a government not answerable to the people. As evidenced by its recent actions, the new government has not taken credible steps to address the issues raised in this report or prior reports, as urged by the Special Rapporteur or the international community in the annual resolutions on human rights in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. In the absence of action by the government, the Special Rapporteur has suggested the establishment of a commission of inquiry as one option to address justice and accountability issues. In October 2010, Secretary Clinton underscored the United States’ commitment to seek accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultations with our friends, allies and other partners at the United Nations.

Finally, the UPR process offered a chance to address some of the above issues. Unfortunately, the government rejected many thoughtful recommendations, including recommendations regarding combating impunity and increasing cooperation with the United Nations.

Special Rapporteur Quintana, the United States would like to thank you for your work and express our support for the continuation of your mandate. We welcome your views on useful next steps in advancing your mandate.
Thank you.