Myanmar has come under renewed pressure to lift itself from the bottom rung of countries to have ratified key international human rights treaties.

Speaking at an event in Yangon yesterday to mark International Human Rights Day, Andrew MacGregor, a senior official from the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, singled out two key covenants on the 50th anniversary of their adoption which he urged Myanmar to enact.

Members of the audience understood that the message was aimed primarily at the new government to take office next March, with expectations that National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be more disposed than the previous military-backed administrations to maintain past pledges to accede to key human rights treaties.

“Respect for these freedoms continues to be the foundation of peace, security and development for all. Accordingly, the UN Human Rights Office calls on the government of Myanmar to ratify the two covenants as a signal of its intent to promote and protect your human rights and freedoms, and the rights and freedoms of all in Myanmar,” Mr MacGregor said.

He was referring to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Myanmar has taken no action on the former and has signed but not ratified the latter.

Myanmar is the most significant state among mostly smaller nations that have acceded to four or fewer of the 18 key International Human Rights Treaties.

In 2011, when President U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government took office, Myanmar pledged to “sign and ratify the core human rights treaties”, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However it took only limited steps.

Mr MacGregor said UN agencies were ready to help.

“As the UN Human Rights office in Myanmar, we – along with all of the UN – are ready and eager to assist and support the government meet it human rights obligations,” he said.

Government officials were not available for comment. Members of the Yangon Region government attended yesterday’s event but made no comment.

Signing and ratifying international treaties involve a lengthy process, but in the meantime local human rights groups are hoping that the new government will release all political prisoners.

According to the Former Political Prisoners Society, there are currently 126 political prisoners in Myanmar and 477 others who are on trial for political offences.

U Tin Maung Oo, a member of the FPPS, told The Myanmar Times that the number of political prisoners was still rising under the current government but that instances of torture were believed to have stopped.

“This is a kind of improvement for the political prisoners. But we object to the arrests of activists,students and journalists,” he said.

U Nay Lin Soe, leader of Myanmar Independent Living Initiative Group, said the next government must also adopt human rights standards for disabled people. More than half of disabled children did not have access to education, he said. Disabled people were also disadvantaged in getting jobs, he added.

“We hope that the next government will do more for the protection of disabled people,” he said.

http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/yangon/18048-myanmar-comes-under-renewed-pressure-to-ratify-key-human-rights-treaties.html