UN warns detention of Myanmar democracy leader puts human rights at risk

11 September 2003
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro

If Myanmar wishes to renew its commitment to political reform, it must start by immediately and unconditionally releasing pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners currently being detained in an undisclosed location, the United Nations human rights expert on the country says in a new report out today.

If Myanmar wishes to renew its commitment to political reform, it must start by immediately and unconditionally releasing pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners currently being detained in an undisclosed location, the United Nations human rights expert on the country says in a new report out today.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Myanmar, said that although there had been some positive steps in the area of confidence building with the international community, there has been a serious setback instead of progress on substantial human rights issues.

His interim report to the General Assembly is based on his brief visit to the country from 19 to 24 March - curtailed when he discovered a listening device hidden under the table in a room where he was conducting interviews with political detainees at Insein prison - and information received up to 28 July.

Mr. Pinheiro writes that, sadly, a "dark shadow" has been cast on the political and human rights developments in the country since the grave events of 30 May - when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were taken into "protective custody" after deadly clashes reportedly broke out between her supporters and pro-government protesters in northern Myanmar.

Since that time, the Special Rapporteur has joined his voice with the wide international condemnation of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), repeatedly calling for the release of the prisoners and a full investigation into the events, the report notes. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Pinheiro voiced deep concern over reports that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is on hunger strike and again called for her immediate release.

The Special Rapporteur says that by keeping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in detention, the Myanmar authorities have completely paralyzed the opposition movement, leading to the freezing of diverse possibilities for cooperation with concerned countries and international institutions. The SPDC has "put at serious risk the process of addressing urgently the existing precarious humanitarian situation, with potential ramifications for the exercise of all human rights," he writes.

Furthermore, Mr. Pinheiro says he is convinced that the present stalemate is a serious obstacle to the improvement of human rights of all people in Myanmar and hopes that the authorities would consider his request for an urgent visit to assess the post-30 May situation first-hand.

If the SPDC does not accept the request, or is unable to come forward with a detailed explanation about the events, while at the same time releasing political prisoners and reopening dialogue, "the Special Rapporteur will be ready to support the recommendation that the situation in Myanmar be brought to the attention of other instances within the United Nations," the report concludes.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.