Local groups, UN rep warn of backtracking on rights reforms

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By Nyan Lynn Aung

As Myanmar hurtles towards its second cycle in a United Nations human rights review process later this year, NGOs yesterday bemoaned the lack of headway the country has made toward recommendations doled out the first time around.

The four-yearly Universal Period Review will examine Myanmar’s progress on meeting human rights targets it accepted from among the 190 recommendations submitted in 2011.

“Myanmar’s human rights conditions have obviously not improved so far, and after 2013 the conditions have gotten worse,’’ U Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar, said yesterday.

During its first review, Myanmar accepted less than half the suggested recommendations, and rejected dozens more because they “were couched in such a manner that acceptance of them would infringe on Myanmar’s sovereign rights”, Attorney General U Tun Shin told the UN body at the time.

The handful of accepted points included signing and ratifying “core human rights treaties” like the Convention Against Torture. Despite the government’s pledge to ratify the conventions however, just one has so far been adopted, a convention on disabilities.

Myanmar is now up against a clock NGOs don’t think it can beat with the second review scheduled for November 2-13.

Both the government and rights organisations can submit progress reports to the UN Human Rights Council. Local rights groups have until March 23 to send their assessment and recommendations, while the government is required to submit its own update by July 20.

At yesteday’s conference, more than 30 organisations announced the joint NGO report will focus on eight problematic areas, including the judiciary, the constitution, freedom of expression, armed conflict, and arrests, torture and murder by the state.

The draft report suggests 36 reforms, including lifting a section of the constitution that prohibits lawsuits or investigations into army personnel.

“We’ve received 265 cases of human rights violation from ethnic areas and most were about violations by the Tatmadaw,” said Ma Lwae Poe Nge from the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma.

The criticism of Myanmar’s progress on human rights is not only domestic. On March 16, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee told the council in Geneva that recent events here demonstrate the “numerous challenges” threatening to undermine the quasi-civilian state’s successes in reforming.

The evaluation began with a condemnation of the recent arrests and clashes with student protesters in Letpadan and ended with a quote from monk U Wirathu criticising her work. In between, Ms Lee deplored the recent jailing of journalists and ventured into heated waters as she called the situation in Rakhine State “dire”, with “abysmal” conditions in the Muslim IDP camps.

She also drew attention to armed conflicts, saying, “Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas.”

Like domestic NGOs, her report cautioned that Myanmar may be stalling – or worse, backpedalling – on rights reform.

“It is important to welcome the positive developments in Myanmar, but also to honestly highlight the areas of risk and the numerous challenges that must be addressed rapidly before they undermine the successes achieved so far,” she said.

 

source by : Myanmar Times

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