UN slams Myanmar, N.Korea, Palestinian rights ills

This content was published on October 22, 2009 - 20:34

By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Human rights violations in Myanmar are alarming, North Koreans are starving and living in continual fear and Palestinians are suffering amid Middle East tensions, U.N. rights envoys said on Thursday.
Special rapporteurs appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva described the human rights conditions in each country to a meeting of the 192 U.N. member states.
While Myanmar rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana was able to visit the military-ruled Asian country twice, communist North Korea denied entry to envoy Vitit Muntarbhorn and envoy Richard Falk was stopped by Israel from entering Palestinian areas.
"The situation of human rights in Myanmar remains alarming. There is a pattern of widespread and systematic violations which in many conflict areas results result in serious abuses of civilian rights and integrity," Quintana said.
"The prevailing impunity allows for the continuation of violations," he added.
He also criticized the military junta for keeping opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained. Western officials fear the government wants to keep her under house arrest during next year's election so that she is unable to run.
Myanmar's representative, who U.N. officials identified as Thaung Tun, described Quintana's report as less than objective, saying insurgents and anti-government groups had been given a "sympathetic ear" and that all the allegations made "should be taken with a grain of salt."
He said steps were being taken to organise 2010 elections in the country, which he said would be "free and fair."
Myanmar also reprimanded the United States and Britain during the meeting for referring to the country by its former name, Burma, while North Korea admonished the United States for not calling it DPRK -- Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In North Korea, envoy Muntarbhorn said the food aid situation was desperate with the World Food Program only able to feed about one third of the people in need. He said torture is extensively practiced and described prisons as purgatory.
"Freedoms associated with human rights and democracy, such as the freedom to choose one's government, freedom of association, freedom of expression ... privacy and freedom of religion are flouted on a daily basis by the nature and practices of the regime in power," he said.
"The pervasive repression imposed by the authorities ensures the people live in continual fear and are impressed to inform on each other," he said. "The state practices extensive surveillance over its inhabitants."
North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador Pak Tok Hun rejected the report and said the country, which has also drawn international condemnation for nuclear and missile tests, was being "singled out for sinister political purposes."
Falk's report on the Palestinian territories focussed on human rights concerns related to issues including the war in December and January between Islamist militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel's construction of a land barrier and disputed housing settlements.
He said an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip means "insufficient basic necessities are reaching the population."
Falk also spoke of the "unlawful, noncooperation" of Israel which prevented him from visiting the Palestinian territories. Israel did not respond to Falk's reports at the meeting.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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