An independent United Nations human rights expert today called for the immediate release of three prominent student leaders in Myanmar reportedly arrested yesterday, citing numerous charges of abuse in pre-trial detention as cause for “extreme” concern.
“The arrests lead to serious questions regarding the will of the Government of Myanmar to resume an effective dialogue with the various stakeholders who should be associated to the National Convention,” Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said in a statement, referring to the body entrusted with drawing up principles for a new constitution in the South Asian country.
Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe, who had previously served prison sentences totaling over 15 years since 1988, were arrested at their homes by the military and taken to three different locations, according to the statement.
“The Special Rapporteur is extremely worried about their present condition, in light of the fact that over the last seven years he has received numerous reports of human rights violations in pre-trial detention,” it added. “The Special Rapporteur is deeply saddened by the latest allegations, which came as he addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva.”
Mr. Pinheiro told the Council yesterday grave human rights violations in Myanmar were taking place not only with impunity but authorized by the sanction of law, adding that the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental freedoms by political opponents, human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses was a matter of grave concern.
Myanmar’s representative at the session, U Nyunt Maung Shein, disputed the charges, saying the allegations of abuse were entirely based on information collected from a few remaining insurgent groups confined to border areas and foreign-funded expatriates with a hidden political agenda.
Mr. Pinheiro has issued several statements in recent months deploring alleged rights violations in Myanmar. In March he said there were more than 1,000 people behind bars “for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.”
Special Rapporteurs are unpaid and serve in a personal capacity, reporting to the UN Human Rights Council.