UN Human Rights Council calls on Myanmar to release detainees, political prisoners

2 October 2007 – The United Nations Human Rights Council, convened in special session, today strongly deplored the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, calling on the authorities to release without delay all those recently arrested as well as all political detainees, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The adoption of the resolution by consensus came after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, met with the South-East Asian nation’s top general to discuss the “current situation,” while UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called on the Government to give a full account of those killed, injured and arrested in the anti-Government protests that began last month.

“The peaceful protests we have witnessed in recent weeks and the shocking response by the authorities are only the most recent manifestations of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms that has taken place for nearly 20 years in Myanmar,” Ms. Arbour told the 47-member Council in Geneva.

“The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that their self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability,” she added. “As the protesters have become invisible, our concern only increases for the safety and well being of the monks, presumably confined to their monasteries, if not worse, and for the hundreds of people arrested in the course of the demonstrations, and for those wounded and removed from the streets to unknown locations.”

She stressed that the 2005 Summit of World Leaders at UN Headquarters in New York agreed that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians against serious international crimes.

“The exercise of such responsibility requires that preventive, reactive and rebuilding measures be put in place to avert and confront crises, as well as to prepare the ground for justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights to take hold,” Ms. Arbour declared. “As we seek to prevent the outbreak of further overt violence and abuse, we must deploy all efforts to reach those clearly in need of international protection, including those whose fate is unknown.”

Also addressing the session, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro called for decisive international action to prevent a repeat of the massacres that marked a pro-democracy uprising nearly two decades ago. “The failure of the international community to prevent the massacre following the 1988 people’s uprising causing the death of over 3,000 protesters must not be repeated,” he said. “The world is watching and while the time for mere words has passed, decisive action is now needed. No State can condone such actions.”

He, too, called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

He decried the recent media black-out and cutting of internet access as “a further example of the intolerable and oppressive means used by the authorities,” and urged the Council to seek detailed information from the Government on the number of those killed and injured. “Impunity should not prevail for flagrant violations of human rights,” he said.

Mr. Pinheiro called for a strategic dialogue with the help of regional States to reconcile the army with the people of Myanmar.

“There will be no progress in Myanmar’s political transition unless ordinary people have space to express their views and discontent, peacefully and in public. The starting point for a national reconciliation requires meaningful and inclusive dialogue from the Government with and between political representatives and ethnic groups,” he concluded.

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