UN Right Expert: Release Political Prisoners

source from Irrawaddy news, 17 March 2009

GENEVA — A UN human rights investigator has urged Burma to release its 2,100 or so political prisoners before holding next year’s elections—the country’s first ballot in two decades.

In a report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Tomas Ojea Quintana said Burma’s military-run government should release all “prisoners of conscience”—starting with the elderly, the sick and political leaders—because their detention breaches basic human rights.

“Release must be without imposing any particular condition which may result in new forms of diminishing enjoyment of human rights, such as written statements renouncing the right to political participation or campaign,” Quintana said.

Prisoners who remain in custody should be spared cruel treatment and should be given better conditions and urgent medical treatment, he said.

Among those detained is Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held without trial for 13 of the past 19 years. Her pro-democracy movement won Myanmar’s 1990 democratic elections, a result the military junta never recognized.

Quintana said he regretted that the government denied his request to meet with Suu Kyi and other detainees during his February visit to the country.

In the 41-page report, which was made available on the Web ahead of its presentation Tuesday, he called for “an urgent, impartial and independent review” of Suu Kyi’s case.

Quintana also recommended other measures be taken in the run-up to next year’s elections, including reform of the judiciary, a review of 380 laws that may breach international standards, an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, and end to use of anti-personnel mines and the abolition of forced labor.

Meanwhile military authorities have arrested five members of Suu Kyi’s political party, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Among those arrested was Kyi Lwin, who has not been an active party member since suffering a stroke a year ago, said Han Tha Myint, spokesman of the National League for Democracy. Police took him from his home Sunday without explaining why.

“We have no clue at all why they were arrested,” said Han Tha. “Families were told that authorities are taking them for questioning.”

Four others arrested between March 6-13 include Myint Myint San, also known as Ma Cho, a member of the party’s Social Support Committee, which helps support political prisoners and their families. The three others are Sein Hlaing, Shwe Gyo and Thein Lwin, who are active party members, the spokesman said.

In recent months, the junta has locked away pro-democracy activists in an apparent attempt to clear away dissent before a general election promised for 2010. Military courts have sentenced hundreds of pro-democracy activists to harsh prison terms of up to 104 years.


Four NLD Members Arrested

source from irraeaddy news, 16 march 2009

Four members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party were arrested this month, as exiled human rights groups continue to call for the release of all political prisoners.

Kyi Lwin, in his 50s, a NLD member from South Dagon Myothit Township, was arrested by local authorities on Monday, said NLD spokesperson Nyan Win.

“He is in poor health, and he has been paralyzed,” said Nyan Win. 

A Burmese activist lights candles during Human Rights Day in Bangkok March 13. The global signature campaign aims to get 888,888 signatures, to demand for the release of all political prisoners, before May 24, 2009 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest will end. (Photo: Reuters)

Myint Myint San (also known as Ma Cho), a leading member of the Social Supporting Committee of the NLD, was also arrested on Friday, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP).

Ma Cho worked in the support of political prisoners, said Aung Kyaw Oo of the AAPP. 

“Most of the support was money and medicine so political prisoners’ families could visit prisons,” said Aung Kyaw Oo, who himself served 14 years in prison. 

Two NLD members, Sein Hlaing of Sanchaung Township and Shwe Gyoe of Hlaing Township, were arrested on March 6. Details of their arrest and where they are detained are not known.

Shwe Gyoe was the father-in-law of Aung Hlaing Win, who died in detention in 2005 during interrogation by Burmese military intelligence operatives.

The NLD established the SSC in 1995 to assist political prisoners across the country by providing them with basic materials such as soap, eating utensils, prison uniforms and towels.

In 1996, the SSC was temporarily suspended by the military regime, but it subsequently resumed its activities.

Meanwhile, the Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now campaign committee, organized by the AAPP and the Forum for Democracy in Burma, lunched a global signature campaign on March 13 to mark Burmese Human Rights Day.



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