18 June 2008 – The United Nations Human Rights Council today condemned “ongoing systematic violations of human rights” in Myanmar and called on the Government to stop making politically motivated arrests and to release all political prisoners immediately.
In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Council also called on the Government of Myanmar to fully implement commitments it made to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that it would grant relief workers “immediate, full and unhindered access” to people in need in the wake of last month’s catastrophic Cyclone Nargis.
It called on the Government to refrain from sending victims of the disaster back to areas where they would not have access to emergency relief, and to ensure that any returns are voluntary, safe and carried out with dignity.
The resolution, introduced before the Geneva-based Council by the European Union, also condemned the recruitment of child soldiers by both Government forces and non-State armed groups and urged “an absolute an immediate stop of this appalling activity.”
In addition, it called for an independent investigation into reports of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and forced labour, and called for those responsible for such crimes to be brought to justice.
The resolution also called on the Government “to engage in a real process of dialogue and national reconciliation with the full and genuine participation of representatives of all political parties and ethnic groups who have been excluded from the political process.”
Introducing the resolution on behalf of the EU, Slovenian representative Andrej Logar said previous resolutions had not been implemented by Myanmar and many political prisoners remained in detention.
The recent constitutional referendum was conducted in complete disregard of basic standards on such issues as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, he said.
Myanmar’s representative U Wunna Maung Lwin described the resolution as politically motivated and lopsided and said powerful States were trying to influence matters through political interference.
The representative said Myanmar was working with the international community in the response effort to Cyclone Nargis, which struck the country on 2-3 May, and was also making efforts on the political front, such as with the recent holding of the constitutional referendum.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the General Assembly today on his recent trip to Myanmar, saying that overall the relief effort there is continuing to improve and to be scaled up.
More than 134,000 people are dead or missing as a result of Cyclone Nargis and the subsequent tidal wave, and as many as 2.4 million people were affected and now need humanitarian assistance.
In his address to Assembly members, Mr. Ban stressed that the humanitarian tragedy wrought by the cyclone should not be politicized, and he plans to remain focused on the issue, drawing on the efforts of his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari.
The Secretary-General also covered other issues in his remarks to the Assembly, including his latest travels, the most recent developments in the global food crisis and the situation in Zimbabwe.