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As Ojea Quintana Mobbed in Myanmar, UN Soft Statement, Pillay to Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- So how much does the UN protect affiliated human rights officials when they visit countries the UN has taken to praising?

  This question is not only about the Sri Lanka sojourn of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay next week. Inner City Press asked it this week about Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana getting "mobbed" in Myanmar.

  As he left Myanmar on August 21 Ojea Quintana spoke of "being left totally unprotected by the nearby police, gave me an insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs during the violence last March."

  He said he had be forced to cancel a visit to a camp for hundreds of displaced Muslims in Meiktila over security fears.

  So where was the UN? At the August 21 UN noon briefing in New York, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey:

Inner City Press: in Myanmar, the Special Rapporteur has complained that his vehicle was attacked by “Buddhist mobs in Meiktila” when he went to investigate, and he said that the Government has a duty to protect special rapporteurs, so does the Secretariat or Mr. Nambiar have any comment on the Government’s failure to protect this Special Rapporteur of the UN system?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well, I don’t have anything with me, but we can check with Mr. Nambiar’s office for you.

  For 48 hours, nothing -- even as the Myanmar government disagreed with and even mocked Ojea Quintana, saying he had "misunderstood." Then on Friday afternoon, this:

Subject: Answers to questions on Myanmar
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 1:09 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

On Myanmar: While we recognise the rights of all individuals to demonstrate or express their views on such issues, it would be legitimate to expect that this would be done without recourse to any form of intimidation or violence.

  That's all? "It would be legitimate to expect"?

  Next week Navi Pillay goes to Sri Lanka, and we will be covering the trip (despite continued failure to respond by Pillay's Spokesperson's office in Geneva). Watch this site.


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