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UN rights expert urges Myanmar to continue reforms

A UN ambassador on Sunday urged the government in Myanmar to continue its ongoing reforms [statement] in areas such as judicial independence and human rights protections. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile], who spoke to reporters at the end of a six-day visit, praised the country for its recent reforms, such as a presidential pardon that will free a total of 651 political prisoners and the creation of laws to protect freedom of the press and freedom of speech during peaceful protests [JURIST reports]. However, Quintara expressed concern about the independence of the judiciary and its ability to uphold new laws, and he suggested that the chief justice seek support from the international community to make reforms and ensure impartiality in the courts. He also mentioned the need for continued investigations into alleged human right abuses:

I remain of the firm conviction that justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, are fundamental for Myanmar to move forward towards national reconciliation. During my mission, I made a careful assessment as to whether the National Human Rights Commission could play a role in this regard. However, considering the lack of independence and the limited capacity of the Commission, it is crucially important that the Government of Myanmar involve stakeholders, including victims of human rights violations, in order to get their advice and views on how and when to establish truth, justice and accountability measures. It is also important to learn lessons from other countries that have experience in these processes.
Myanmar will hold elections on April 1, which Quintara predicted would be a "key test" in measuring the success of the recent reforms.

Myanmar has made a series of reforms following a transfer of power from a military regime to a civil system last March. Last month Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC backgrounder] signed a clemency order on that shortened sentences for many prisoners on humanitarian grounds in celebration of Myanmar's independence day. In December the Myanmar government announced that the political party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive] would be allowed to register for the next elections, an announcement that followed Suu Kyi's release [JURIST reports] in November after eight years under house arrest. In September, Myanmar's government created the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) [JURIST report] to safeguard citizens' constitutional rights.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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