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Ending Discrimination against Ethnic Groups Essential: UN Rights Expert

17 January 2012: The United Nations human rights envoy to Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana on Monday said Burma must end discrimination against the country’s ethnic groups if there is to be long-term political and social stability in the multi-ethnic South East Asian country.

“Ending discrimination and ensuring fundamental rights for Myanmar’s ethnic minorities is essential for national reconciliation and will contribute to Myanmar’s long-term political and social stability,” the Argentinean lawyers said in a press statement.

Welcoming last week’s amnesty to hundreds of political prisoners, Quintana said the Presidential pardon was a ‘’critical’’ step in the lead-up to by-elections slated for April.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also hailed last week’s amnesty as “the most significant release to date.”

But the Special Rapporteur also voiced concern that a number of prisoners of conscience remain in detention and urged the Government to immediately release all of them without conditions.

Taking note of the recent ceasefire agreements in Karen and other ethnic areas, Quintana expressed hope that there would be further progress in resolving conflicts with armed ethnic groups throughout the country and called on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

“I renew my call on the Government to develop a comprehensive plan to officially engage ethnic minority groups in an inclusive dialogue to resolve long-standing grievances and deep-rooted concerns,” he added. “All parties to this dialogue must ensure that investigations and accountability for past gross and systematic human rights violations are on the agenda.

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