Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UN ruling will increase pressure on the Burmese government

(DVB)–The Washington-based legal counsel to the imprisoned Burmese opposition leader has said that time is running out for the regime with Aung San Suu Kyi’s release date, as set by the government, due this November.

On Monday the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the ongoing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi contravened the Burmese government’s own law, as well as international law. This was the first time they had drawn such a ruling.

Jared Genser, legal counsel to Suu Kyi and Executive Director of Freedom Now, said that while it was unlikely that the ruling State Peace and Development Council will change direction anytime soon, the looming release date coupled with increased international pressure could prove “interesting”.

“The SPDC is running out of time,” he said. “By their own public statements, they have said her detention expires in November 2009.

“It will be very interesting to see how they respond at that time to calls for her release.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer in Burma, Kyi Win, said however that past history showed that, despite the UN ruling, any change was unlikely.

“We’ve been saying the same thing since long ago,” he said. “The maximum amount of years they can put her under detention for was only five.

“The extension of that detention was passed by the government and the court was only doing what it was told to do.”

The problem now is that Suu Kyi’s representatives can only make appeals to the court and not to government leaders who passed the decision, he said.

According to Kyi Win, there used to be an article in the law which gave authority to the court to decide on such cases but it was removed by the current government.

“So the decision is up to the SPDC now,” he said.

“Our appeal pointed out that the government’s decision was wrong but an answer from the government is unlikely now as they are refusing to look into it.”

The UNWGAD decision has made headlines across the world and is likely to put added pressure on countries that support the Burmese government.

“Let the words of the decision be spread loud and clear, particularly in China, India and within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)” said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of human rights campaign group ARTICLE 19.

“It is more than time that they end their protection of the Burmese authorities' illegal practices."

Reporting by Nay Thoo and Francis Wade

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