October 2, 2007 / 5:07 PM / in 10 years

UN rights forum urges Myanmar to allow visit

(Adds Pinheiro quotes, paragraphs 5-6; responses)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The United Nations top human rights forum strongly deplored on Tuesday Myanmar’s "violent repression" of protests and called on the junta to allow its investigator to visit for the first time in four years.

The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution presented by the European Union (EU) deploring beatings, killings and arbitrary detentions during recent unrest and calling for an investigation into the violations.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, told the Council’s special one-day session that he was ready to investigate and report back to the 47-member state forum.

"Light must absolutely be shed on what happened in Myanmar," he said. "It’s time for the government of Myanmar to respond to this truly universal appeal from this historic meeting."

Pinheiro, speaking to a news conference, said Myanmar should accept the standard terms for a visit by a U.N. human rights investigator. These included granting full access to prisons and detention centres, where he could interview detainees privately.

"Member states who refuse the presence of a special rapporteur must pay a price," he said without elaborating.

Myanmar’s envoy Nyunt Swe criticised the Council for singling out his country, but stopped short of rejecting its request for Pinheiro to visit. The Council should not be used by "powerful countries for political exploitation", he said.

"Myanmar therefore rejects the politicised approach by holding this session. Our engagement with the Council must be constructive and forward-looking, not confrontational and condemnatory," he said.

Myanmar does not have a vote on the Council. The EU, which has seven votes including Britain and France, changed its draft resolution just ahead of the vote to read "strongly deplores" rather than "condemns".

China, India and Russia are all members of the Council who went along with the consensus.

The U.S. delegation, which only has observer status, urged Myanmar to cooperate with Pinheiro after its "brutal violence".

"Democratic activists, Buddhist monks and nuns, students, journalists, ordinary people (were) all asking to be heard. Instead of dialogue, they have been beaten back," U.S. ambassador Warren Tichenor said in a speech.


Earlier, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged Myanmar to give a full account of people killed and injured as well as the whereabouts of those arrested.

"As the protesters have become invisible, our concern only increases for the safety and well-being of the monks, presumably confined to their monasteries, if not worse, and for the hundreds of people arrested...and for those wounded and removed from the streets to unknown locations," she said.

Myanmar has said that 10 people died in its crackdown on the biggest democracy protests in 20 years, but Western governments believe the death toll is likely to be far higher.

Pinheiro, a Brazilian lawyer and professor serving in the independent post since 2000, said thousands of peaceful demonstrators had been arrested.

He demanded to know how many protesters and bystanders were in hospital, whether forensic tests had been performed on bodies of protesters killed and where they had been buried.

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