Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention violates Burmese law: UN

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – For the first time, the United Nations has said the detention of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi violates both international and domestic law.

A UN working group on arbitrary detention, in its opinion No. 46/2008, for the first time stated that the continued detention of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi violates domestic law.

“The Working Group. . . declare[s] Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s placement under house arrest arbitrary, being in contravention of Articles 9, 10, and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights . . . and even domestic law,” states the opinion, which has been released by Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal lawyer.

The legal opinion by the UN working group, which only now made the decision public after reaching its verdict last November, said the latest renewal (in 2008) of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest term violates Burmese domestic law.

According to the working group, Aung San Suu Kyi was being held under Burma's 1975 State Protection Law, which only allows renewable arrest orders for a maximum of five years. The five-year period concluded at the end of May 2008.

For the fifth time since 1992, the working group, an arm of the Human Rights Council, determined Aung San Suu Kyi's detention arbitrary and illegal under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the decision this time is the first in which her detention is noted as also being illegal under Burma's own laws.

Speaking to Mizzima, Jared Genser, Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal lawyer, who submitted the case to the UN body, said that with the UN condemning the Burmese pro-democracy leader’s detention, it is the right time for the international community to exert stronger pressure for the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

“The UN has acknowledged that the ongoing detention of her [Aung San Suu Kyi] is illegal. What is needed now is the international community to take concrete action against the Burmese regime to free her,” said Genser.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent over 13 of the past 19 years in detention.

Similarly, the UN working group also condemned Burma’s military rulers for detaining four activists - Min Ko Naing, Ko Jimmy, Min Zayar and Pyone Cho.

In November, jurists of an international tribunal founded under the auspices of the UN charter declared the detention of the four Burmese activists to be arbitrary.

The judgment came in response to a case brought forward by two British barristers, Sappho Dias and Adam Zellick, on behalf of the four prisoners in Burmese jails.

The four Burmese activists were arrested in August of 2007 for leading a peaceful march in Burma’s former capital city of Rangoon in solidarity with the poor, who were hardest hit by a sudden hike in fuel prices.

Despite the Burmese government’s protestations, the tribunal held the regime to be operating entirely outside of the law and described its violations of minimum standards of international law as "grotesque".

"We support the call for the release of these four men. We also call for the release of all those unlawfully detained by this regime,” Sappho Dias, who is also Chairman of the Burma Justice Committee (BJC), said in a press statement on Tuesday.

“We must act now to end the injustice that is being perpetrated against the Burmese people," Dias said.

The decisions of the UN working group came as activists from around the world begun a global campaign for the release of the over 2,000 political prisoners in Burma.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association of Political Prisoners-Burma, following the September 2007 monk-led protests, authorities have enhanced efforts to crackdown on dissidents, rampantly arresting and sentencing dozens of activists to long prison terms.

Edited by Mungpi

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