Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UN Experts Fault ‘Flagrant Violations’ in Suu Kyi Trial


As lawyers for detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi try to reinstate two key witnesses in her trial, United Nations legal specialists said the proceedings so far had been “marred by flagrant violations of substantive and procedural rights."

The group of five UN human rights experts urged the Burmese regime to ensure that the trial of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and two of her aides is "fair and open."

Members of the group are Manuela Carmena Castrilo, chairperson-rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Leandro Despouy, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Tomas Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Frank La Rue, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In a statement by the group, released on Tuesday, Despouy said the trial had so far mostly been conducted behind closed doors and that the media had been prevented from speaking to the defense lawyers. "Transparency in the administration of justice is a pre-requisite of any State governed by the rule of law," he said.

While the prosecution was allowed to call 14 witnesses, most of them policemen, only one witness called by the defense team has so far been permitted to testify. Applications for another three defense witnesses to testify have been made. Last week, a second defense witness was granted permission to be heard in the case.

"The court must ensure that all witnesses who may have relevant evidence are able to testify," Despouy said, according to the statement published on the UN’s Web site.

Suu Kyi and two of her women aides are standing trial before a special court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison, accused of violating her detention order by allowing an American intruder to stay for two days after he swam to her lakeside home.

The trial has drawn outrage from the international and regional community. Suu Kyi's supporters have said that the regime is using the bizarre incident as an excuse to keep her in detention at least until next year’s general election has been held.

Meanwhile Burma activists have sent a petition to UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon, urging him to make the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma his top priority.

The petition—signed by more than 670,000 people from 220 countries and territories—calls on Ban and his special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to secure the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. Ban is reported to be planning a visit to Burma next month.

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