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Myanmar must release all remaining political prisoners by year’s end – UN expert

20 October 2011 – Myanmar’s new Government must follow up on its release of 200 political prisoners earlier this month by freeing all remaining such detainees by the end of the year, a United Nations human rights expert said today.

“I believe that this is a key moment in Myanmar’s history and there are real opportunities for positive and meaningful development to improve the human rights situation and deepen the transition to democracy,” UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana told a news conference in New York.

“I am pushing the Government to release all remaining political prisoners before the end of the year,” he said, a day after briefing the General Assembly’s third committee on his latest report on the South-East Asian country, where a newly-convened Parliament elected a new President earlier this year following more than two decades of rule by uniformed officers.

“Those prominent leaders, those who had important roles in the history of Myanmar, they still remain in prison… The Government must move forward on this point… they (the prisoners) deserve now to play a role in this again important moment,” he added.

“The Government should not use them as hostages to have the compliance of the international community. These people deserve to enjoy their freedom and they have been incarcerated for exercising political freedoms in Myanmar.”

Mr. Quintana said he had access to some of the prisoners, who include those detained for political and ethnic reasons, in private conditions with no officials present during his recent visit to Myanmar.

As he did in his report and his briefing to the committee, he said that despite pledges by the new Government to fulfil its international human rights obligations, he was still receiving allegations of abuses, particular from border areas where the military is fighting ethnic insurgencies, and he hoped to have a dialogue with Government on this issue on his next visit.

Many serious human rights, social, political, economic and cultural issues still remain to be addressed, he added.

“Investigations into human rights violation allegations need to be done in a credible and independent manner,” he said, stressing that he had delivered this message to the authorities during his recent visit.

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