UN rights envoy says Burma’s judiciary system flawed

UN rights envoy says Burma’s judiciary system flawed

New Delhi – United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, says Burma’s judicial system, which sentenced over 30 dissidents to long prison terms on Tuesday, is flawed and manipulated by the ruling junta.

Quintana, in an interview with Mizzima, said, “There is no independent and impartial judiciary system [in Burma],” referring to the sentencing of dissidents earlier this week to up to 65 years in prison.

Quintana, who made his inaugural investigative trip on the condition of human rights in Burma in August, said the proceedings that sentenced the activists “cannot be taken as a fair trial” and that the government should reconsider the convictions.

However, despite the UN rights expert’s and the international community’s condemnation of the Burmese military junta’s earlier convictions, 11 more National League for Democracy members were today handed sentences of seven and half years imprisonment.  

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General said in a statement that Ban Ki-moon is deeply concerned by the severe prison terms imposed on activists in connection with last year’s peaceful demonstrations in Burma.

“He calls once again for all political prisoners to be released and for all citizens of Myanmar [Burma] to be allowed to freely participate in their country’s political future as part of an inclusive national reconciliation process,” the statement read.

With their words, Ban and Quintana joined the growing chorus of international condemnation over the junta’s actions, which opposition groups say are aimed to eliminate all activists before the planned election in 2010.

Quintana stressed that the convictions of the activists should be reconsidered as they had not received a fair trial. He also said he will raise the issue of a fair court and an independent judicial system during his second visit to the country, which he believes will occur prior to March 2009.

“I am trying to go back to the country before March 2009, this [the judiciary system] will be part of my discussion in the country,” Quintana told Mizzima.

In his earlier visit in August, the UN envoy proposed four core human rights elements to the Burmese junta for consideration, one of which was a review of national legislation in accordance with the new constitution and international obligations – in addition to the release of political prisoners, a review of the armed forces and look at how authority is exercised.

Quintana noted, “One of my goals for the next mission is to establish with the government for the implementation of these four core human rights elements.”

“The human rights situation [in Burma] is a challenging task for me and for other human rights agencies,” added the Special Rapporteur.

by Solomon IN MIZZIMA

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