UN rights chief urges release of Myanmar demonstrators

Louise Arbour

27 August 2007 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for the immediate release of student leaders and other protesters arrested by the Myanmar authorities following a series of peaceful demonstrations against the sharp increase in fuel prices.

In a weekend statement, Louise Arbour also urged the authorities to “engage in consultation and dialogue with the demonstrators on their concerns.”

Stressing that freedoms of expression and association are “touchstones of human rights,” Ms. Arbour said that allowing greater space for citizens to express their views and discontent will be essential in fostering the way towards a democratic transition and reconciliation in the South-East Asian nation.

The High Commissioner's appeal came just days after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “constructive dialogue towards national reconciliation at this important time in Myanmar's history.”

Mr. Ban also urged the authorities to exercise maximum restraint in responding to any demonstrations and encourages all parties to avoid any provocative action.

Adding his voice to those of Mr. Ban and Ms. Arbour, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, stressed that rather than suppressing the peaceful expression of grievances the Myanmar authorities should engage in public dialogue to find solutions.

“The Government should recognize in this discontent that Myanmar's people are not only suffering the denial of their civil and political rights, but are also feeling the severe impact on their economic, social and cultural rights,” Mr. Pinheiro said in a statement issued on Friday.

With over 100 people reported to have been arrested since 21 August, he stated that “no progress is possible as long as ordinary citizens cannot freely express their views, peacefully and in public.”

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