15 May 2009 Calling on Myanmar's Government to drop all charges against pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the top United Nations human rights official today appealed to authorities for her immediate and unconditional release.
According to reports, Ms. Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for several years, and two aides were escorted yesterday morning by security forces 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.
Ms. Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD), and her two aides are currently detained in the Insein compound and her trial has been scheduled for 18 May.
“Her continued detention, and now this latest trial, breach international standards of due process and fair trial,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.
It had been hoped that the Nobel Peace Prize winner would be released when her current detention order, which has already continued for one year longer than the maximum of five years permitted under Myanmar's laws, expires at the end of this month.
“The Myanmar authorities might claim Aung San Suu Kyi has breached the conditions of her detention, but they have broken both their own laws and their international human rights obligations,” Ms. Pillay stressed. “She should not be detained in the first place.”
Ms. Suu Kyi has spent over 12 years under house arrest. On 30 May 2003, she was re-arrested under a law which states that a person “suspected of having committed or believed to be about to commit, any act which endangers the sovereignty and security of the state” can be detained.
In May 2007, the Government extended her arrest for another year, bringing her detention to the five-year limit, and her detention was prolonged for sixth year last May.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and guarantees the right to fair trial and to freedom of opinion and expression, which, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Suu Kyi has exercised peacefully and courageously over many years.
Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is “gravely concerned” about the news of her detention.
“The Secretary-General believes that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an essential partner for dialogue in Myanmar's national reconciliation and calls on the Government not to take any further action that could undermine this important process,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.
Ms. Suu Kyi and all those who have a contribution to make to the future of their country “must be free to be able to do so to ensure that the political process is credible,” the statement added.
Also yesterday, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, called for her unconditional release.
“Since her house is well guarded by security forces, the responsibility for preventing such intrusions, and alerting the authorities, lies with the security forces and not with Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides,” he said.
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