Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today deplored the decision by a Myanmar court to sentence pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional 18 months of house arrest, and urged that she be released immediately.
“The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by the verdict in respect of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “The Secretary-General strongly deplores this decision.”
Ms. Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), was reportedly convicted of violating state security laws after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to her home. She has already spent over 12 years under house arrest.
Mr. Ban urged the Government to “immediately and unconditionally” release Ms. Suu Kyi and to engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation.
“Unless she and all other political prisoners in Myanmar are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt,” today's statement added.
The Government had refused Mr. Ban's request to meet with Ms. Suu Kyi when he visited the South-East Asian nation in July, losing what the UN chief called a “unique opportunity” to show its commitment to a new era of political openness.
He added that allowing the visit “would have been an important symbol of the Government's willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible.”
The sentence was also condemned by four independent UN human rights experts. “This was a baseless trial convened by the Government of Myanmar to exclude Aung San Suu Kyi from the 2010 elections,” they stated in a joint news release in Geneva, in which they reiterated their call for her immediate and unconditional release.
“The court was not independent, judicial guarantees were disregarded, and charges under the State Protection Act were unsubstantive. As we have stated time and again, this trial should never have occurred in the first place.”
They also cited the fact that a lawyer from the defence team had his license revoked and that Ms. Suu Kyi was allowed to consult with defence lawyers only sporadically. Also, only two of the five witnesses called by the defence were permitted to testify.
The experts, who are unpaid, work in an independent capacity and report to the UN Human Rights Council, are: Vice Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention El Hadji Malick Sow; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue Lewy; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya; and Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana.
Security Council members discussed the situation during consultations this afternoon. Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, said consultations were likely to resume tomorrow.