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27 March 2007

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, issued the following statement today:

The Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, deeply regrets the continued imprisonment of the distinguished poet and editor U Win Tin, who spent his seventy-seventh birthday in a prison cell in Yangon, on 12 March. Imprisoned since 4 July 1989, he is now the longest serving political prisoner in Myanmar.

U Win Tin is a human rights defender and democracy advocate whose commitment to the cause of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights has earned him the support and respect of people around the world striving to promote and protect these values. The recipient of numerous international accolades, U Win Tin is also a Laureate of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Award.

Having been sentenced three times since 1989, each time while he was already in prison, U Win Tin is currently serving a further seven years following a letter of concern he wrote to the United Nations regarding the ill treatment and poor conditions of political prisoners. In spite of strong expectation that he would be released last year, he remains in captivity.

U Win Tin is one of over 1200 people currently behind bars in Myanmar for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. Several political prisoners are now elderly or in poor health and in urgent need of medical attention. U Win Tin, who has been held for protracted periods in solitary confinement, is one of a large number of detainees whose state of health has been severely exacerbated by their conditions of detention and who should be released on humanitarian grounds alone.

The Special Rapporteur wishes to take this opportunity to appeal to the Government of the Union of Myanmar to release U Win Tin and all remaining political prisoners. The path to democracy to which the Government has committed itself is one in which there is no place for political prisoners. Rather, processes of national reconciliation and democratic transition are invariably facilitated by the release of all political prisoners.