UN Condemns Human Rights Violations in Myanmar

( [email protected] ) Dec 27, 2008 12:32 PM EST

The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday strongly condemned widespread human rights violations in Myanmar and called on the government to halt politically motivated arrests and free all detainees and political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The sharply worded resolution, sponsored by the United States, Australia, South Korea, Israel and many European countries, was approved by a vote of 80-25 with 45 abstentions.

Myanmar accused the assembly of "blatant interference" in its internal political process and said it will not be bound by the resolution. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but carry weight because they reflect the views of the 192-member world body.

Myanmar's representative, who was not identified, told the assembly the country had made significant political strides and was now on track for a smooth transition to democracy, with a seven-step political process including multiparty elections in 2010.

But the resolution expressed "grave concern" at the failure to include members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and other political parties and some ethnic groups "in a genuine process of dialogue, national reconciliation and transition to democracy."

It said Myanmar's political processes "are not transparent, inclusive, free and fair, and that the procedures established for the drafting of the (country's new) constitution resulted in the de facto exclusion of the opposition from the process."

The General Assembly also expressed grave concern at the government's decision to go ahead with a referendum on the constitution "in an atmosphere of intimidation and without regard to international standards of free and fair elections at a time of dire humanitarian need" just after Cyclone Nargis devastated coastal areas in early May.

It took note of the government's cooperation with the international community in delivering aid to cyclone victims "despite its initial denial of access, which resulted in widespread suffering and increased the risk of loss of life." The cyclone affected 2.4 million people and left an estimated 130,000 people dead or missing.

Myanmar's military, which has ruled since 1962 when they country was known as Burma, tolerates no dissent and crushed pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September 2007. It holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 before the demonstrations, human rights groups say.

The General Assembly "strongly" called on Myanmar's government "to desist from further politically motivated arrests and to release without delay and without conditions those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, as well as all political prisoners."

The resolution said those freed should include Suu Kyi and other leaders of her party, leaders of the 88 Generation, a group at the forefront of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, leaders of ethnic groups, and all those detained as a result of the September 2007 protests.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest.

The General Assembly expressed deep concern that urgent calls to Myanmar's government to improve human rights and institute democratic reforms "have not been met."

It strongly condemned "the ongoing systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Myanmar."

The resolution expressed "grave concern" at Myanmar's "continuing practice of enforced disappearances, use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" and arbitrary detentions. It singled out Suu Kyi, the September 2007 protestors, "as well as the high and increasing number of political prisoners."

The General Assembly called on Myanmar to ensure "full respect for all human rights," to allow independent investigations into reports of human rights violations, to lift all restraints on peaceful political activity, to guarantee freedom of assembly and expression.

It also called on the government "to permit all political representatives and representatives of ethnic nationalities to participate fully in the political transition process without restrictions."

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