UN rights experts press Myanmar to give Aung San Suu Kyi fair trial

16 June 2009

A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today called on the authorities of Myanmar to ensure an “open and fair” trial for opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her two aides.

“So far, the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides has been marred by flagrant violations of substantive and procedural rights,” said Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The trial has mostly been conducted behind closed doors and the media have been denied access to defence lawyers. “Transparency in the administration of justice is a pre-requisite of any State governed by the rule of law,” stressed Mr. Despouy.

In addition, the defence team has only been allowed to present one witness and one more was granted permission to testify, compared with the prosecution which has called 14 witnesses.

“The court must ensure that all witnesses who may have relevant evidence are able to testify,” said Mr. Despouy.

Security forces arrested Ms. Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), and two aides on 14 May and took them to Insein Prison, where they were charged by a special court. They are said to have been charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to their home.

She has been under house arrest for more than 13 of the past 19 years, according to a news release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva.

After being rearrested in 2003, her period of detention was extended until it reached the maximum term permitted under Myanmar’s own laws in May 2008. It was then illegally extended for another year by the authorities, the human rights experts said.

“The five experts called upon the authorities of Myanmar to allow the justice system to function in an independent and impartial manner, so as to guarantee an open and fair trial for the defendants, and to grant unfettered media access,” stated the news release.

The group of experts also include Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Manuela Carmena Castrilo; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.

They all report to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.


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