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UN Renews Expert Mandate, Condemns Burma’s Rights Record Amidst Quake Disaster

27 March 2011: The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday renewed for another year the mandate of Tomas Ojea Quintana, the independent rights expert entrusted to investigate the situation of human rights in Burma. But the world’s highest rights body also ‘strongly condemned’ the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in military-ruled southeast Asian country.

The resolution, which was passed without a vote ‘as orally advised,’came on the heels of Thursday’s devastating earthquake in eastern Burma, which, according to local sources, has claimed more than more than 150 lives so far.

Introducing the resolution on behalf of the European Union (EU), Hungary, which currently holds the EU presidency, said that some of the reported human rights violations could constitute ‘crimes against humanity,’ and urged the ruling Burmese regime to investigate all reports of human rights violations and to ‘bring those responsible to justice.’

But the resolution stopped short of calling for a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into serious breach of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Burma, a key recommendation made by the UN rights expert Mr Quintana in his latest report to the Human Rights Council on March 14.

So far 16 countries in the world have openly endorsed a UN Commission of Inquiry into alleged rights abuses in Burma. But while more states are already supportive of the CoI in principle, they have yet to publicly delcare their endorsement, waiting to see what transpires out of the ‘new’ Burmese governmrent, according to Burmese activists lobbying states during the Universal Periodic Review on Burma in January in Geneva.

Responding to the introduction of the resolution, Burmese delegate at the United Nations Thant Kyaw said “it [the resolution] pursued its political purpose by demanding the sovereign State to recognize a certain political group as well as to remove the impunity clause of the country’s Constitution.”

In a draft resolution circulated on March 18, 37 countires have called on the military regime to end impunity in Burma and to ‘halt discrimination against Rhohingya, Karen, Chin, Shan and Mon and other ethnic groups.’

In his report earlier this month, the UN rights expert specifically highlighed discrimination against the Chins, among other types of systematic discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in Burma. In both his written report and oral statement to the Human Rights Council, the Argentinean lawyer said that the Chins are deprived of both their cultural and religious rights, in addition to being subject to a range of other human rights abuses.

China and Russia, the two countries that previously vetoed the Burma resolutions at the UN Security Council, opposed the resolution stating that they ‘could not join the consensus.’

But two of Burma’s Asean allies, Thailand and Malaysia endorsed the resolution despite some reservations.

Reciprocating condolences to victims of the natural disaster in Burma, Japanese delegate Kenichi Suganuma urged Burma to implement “recommendations from its Universal Periodic Review in January.”

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