Friday, August 3, 2012

Quintana meets with detained UN staff workers

Friday, 03 August 2012 12:47 Mizzima News

The UN special human rights reporter for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, met with five detained UN staff members on Wednesday in Burthidaung Prison in Rakhine State.

The five UN local staff members were arrested in Maungtaw Township during the sectarian unrest in June, authorities said. Few details have been provided by Burmese officials.

United Nations human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana meets with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her  home in Rangoon on Thursday, August 2, 2012. The UN special rapporteur on Burma arrived on Sunday. He has visited Rakhine State and is scheduled to visit Kachin State on Friday. Photo: NLD

Quintana meet with the UN local staff members in a special room, and he also met with their attorneys, according to a three paragraph article in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Friday.

The state-run newspaper said that on Thursday Quintana toured refugee camps in Sittwe Township along with a group of ambassadors who were brought to Rakhine State to receive a briefing on the government’s relief effort by Union Minister for Border Affairs Lt-Gen Thein Htaya and other officials.

On July 13, Mizzima reported that three UN employs had appeared in a hearing before the Maungdaw District Court, after being detained by the Nasaka, a border guard force, during the sectarian violence in June.

The Narinjara website also reported a worker with Doctors without Borders was also arrested and appeared in court, but Narinjara was unable to confirm that report.

Officials earlier said at least some members of the detained UN staff are accused of having started fires during the unrest.

Burmese authorities claimed last week that three of the UNHCR local employees detained during the unrest were somehow involved in the riots. Earlier, a government spokesperson claimed some took part in the burning of structures.

“The government has sound evidence that the three UN employees were involved in the Rakhine riots,” said Thein Htay, the border affairs minister, in the first official explanation of the arrests.

The UN continues to call for detailed information about the employees and why they are being held.

“We haven’t had any access to them,” UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in Bangkok recently. “We are still unaware of what they’ve been charged with.”

Burma has been asked to clarify why the local aid workers were detained.

The detained staff is believed to include Burmese nationals working for the UNHCR, the agency's spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a UN briefing in Geneva. Another UN official said the 10 detained included three workers with the UN World Food Programme and some staff from Doctors Without Borders.

The Burmese government has provided almost no information about the detained aid workers even though at least three were brought to court this month in Rakhine State. The authorities offered no details about the hearings or possible charges.

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