Free all political prisoners in Myanmar, UN rights expert urges

17 June 2005

The United Nations official dedicated to human rights issues in Myanmar today called on the military Government of that country to clarify its political intentions and to release all political prisoners, including opposition leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who recently celebrated her sixtieth birthday under house arrest.

"The immediate release of the approximately 1,300 political prisoners would send a powerful signal to the people of Myanmar and the international community that the Government is seriously committed to a genuine process of reconciliation and to establishing a participatory democracy in Myanmar," said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.

In addition, the Special Rapporteur said the Government of Myanmar must demonstrate its commitment to reform by guaranteeing the full and effective participation of all political actors, including the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), as well as political parties and ethnic leaders, in a meaningful and substantive dialogue.

"While the release of a large number of common prisoners and some political prisoners is to be welcomed," he said, "such steps are sadly tempered by the ongoing arrests, detention and maltreatment of civilians and democracy advocates."

Since the presentation of his last report to the United Nations General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur said he has continued to receive allegations and substantiated reports of serious human rights violations against ethnic minorities, as well as ongoing forced labour and relocations, all of which has resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people.

"Steps can and should be taken immediately to end such serious violations of human rights and to hold those responsible to account," he said.

 

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