New York, NY (BBN) – An independent United Nations human rights expert has voiced concern about the situation of political prisoners on hunger strike in Burma, officially known as Myanmar and about the health of Buddhist monk U Gambira, who needs urgent medical care.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, said he has received reports that 15 “prisoners of conscience,” currently on hunger strike in Insein prison, are being tortured or ill-treated, and that they have been denied drinking water. Eight of the prisoners have reportedly been held in dog cells, he noted in a news release.

Mr. Quintana also raised concerns about the health of U Gambira, held in Kalay Prison in Kalay District, whom he had visited in jail in 2008.

“I have received information that he was beaten during his transfer between prisons, leaving him suffering fits of extreme pain. He needs urgent access to medical care,” said the expert on Tuesday.

Mr. Quintana reminded the Government of international standards – such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment – as the basis for humane treatment of prisoners.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call for all political prisoners to be freed and urged that the Government investigate all allegations of mistreatment of prisoners, including U Gambira.

Last month the government released over 200 prisoners of conscience, a move welcomed by the expert, who stated that, that pending further prisoner releases, the Government should take immediate measures to improve the conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners in compliance with international standards.

“This is the time for Myanmar to not only release prisoners of conscience, but embark on more comprehensive prison reforms.”

BBN/SSR/AD-09Nov11-11:20 am (BST)