Myanmar: UN human rights chief urges release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Louise Arbour

21 May 2007 – As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s term of detention nears its end, the top United Nations human rights official today called on the Government of Myanmar to unconditionally release the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and other political prisoners in the South-East Asian country.

“The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners would demonstrate a willingness to abide by universally accepted human rights standards,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement released in Geneva.

“It would also, I believe, facilitate national dialogue and free the Government and the people to focus on the need to unite the country and to allow the emergence of democratic structures to decide on the way forward.”

The current detention term of Ms. Suu Kyi, the General-Secretary of the National League for Democracy, ends on 27 May. She has been held for 11 years without charge or trial since her party and its allies won the 1990 election with over 80 percent of the Parliamentary seats. She has been under house arrest for four years, and has spent 11 of the past 17 years in detention.

Ms. Suu Kyi is one of over 1,000 known political prisoners held in prisons and labour camps across Myanmar.

The High Commissioner also offered her Office’s support for the Government of Myanmar “in any efforts towards democratization by addressing the complex human rights crisis faced by the country, including the situation of political prisoners.”

Earlier this month, over one dozen UN human rights experts joined their voices to urge Myanmar’s authorities to free Ms. Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

“As of one of the world’s most acclaimed human rights defenders, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is a major political and spiritual leader of Myanmar,” the experts said. “Her tireless commitment to non-violence, truth and human rights has made her a worthy symbol through whom the plight of all people in Myanmar may be recognized.”

The stability of Myanmar, they said, “is not well served by the arrest and detention of several political leaders or by the severe and sustained restrictions on the exercise of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.”

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