UN expert greets abolition of notorious border security force in Myanmar, Rakhine State and calls for accountability

Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, briefs correspondents on human rights in the context of upcoming elections in Myanmar, the first to be held in that country in more than two decades. 21 October 2010 United Nations, New YorkThe United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today welcomed the abolition of Nasaka, the notorious border security force operating in Rakhine State. He urged the authorities to investigate and hold accountable those members of the force responsible for human rights abuses.

“I have received allegations of the most serious of human rights violations involving Nasaka, particularly against the local Rohingya population, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture in detention,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “I have no doubt that the violations committed over the years with complete impunity has undermined the rule of law in Rakhine State, and had serious consequences for the peaceful coexistence of communities there.”

In his March report* to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur recommended that the Government suspend all Nasaka’s operations in Rakhine State and introduce fundamental reforms to this border security force.

“The abolition of Nasaka should not mean that the credible allegations of widespread and systematic human rights violations committed by its members are not properly investigated and the perpetrators held to account,” he said.

“Furthermore, whatever force takes the place of Nasaka, it is vital that the issue of impunity is addressed,” Mr. Ojea Quintana stressed. “If the new force is not held accountable for its conduct, then the Government will not have addressed the underlying problem.”

The human rights expert also urged reforms of the discriminatory laws and regulations which Nasaka used to extort money from the local Rohingya population, including with regard to marriage permits, freedom of movement, registration of new born children, and access to education and employment.

“Reform of discriminatory laws needs to accompany institutional reform, in line with the country’s national reform efforts,” the Special Rapporteur said. “How the Government deals with the situation in Rakhine State is a good indicator of the depth and commitment of its efforts at the national level to bring democracy, respect for human rights and national reconciliation to the people of Myanmar.”

Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/mm/mandate/index.htm

(*) Report available at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.58_AUV.pdf

Myanmar Government response to report available at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.58.Add.1_AV.pdf

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx