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UN HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT CALLS FOR RELEASE OF DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI, URGES INQUIRY INTO DEATHS OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN MYANMAR

25 May 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, issued the following statement on 25 May 2006:

“On 27 May, the current term of detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi finally comes to an end. Detained for 10 of the last 16 years without charge or trial, the General-Secretary of the National League for Democracy and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has been held in isolation for the past three years. I encourage the Government to release her unconditionally and to free all remaining political prisoners.

The continued existence of political prisoners, and their treatment, reveals much about the human rights situation and the pace of progress towards democracy in Myanmar. They are the victims of the denial of the most basic liberties, including freedom of expression and assembly. At least 1,156 of Myanmar's citizens are behind bars, without access to the guarantees of due process, for exercising of their political rights. Their welfare is a cause for very serious concern.

The recent report, "Eight Seconds of Silence", released by the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, documents the tragic deaths since 1988 of 127 democracy advocates and human rights defenders while in detention in Myanmar or shortly after their release. In the past year alone, the number of such deaths has risen to 10.

It is time for the international community to urge the establishment of an independent enquiry into the rapidly escalating number of deaths of political prisoners in Myanmar. This investigation should seek to establish the accountability of those responsible and lead to compensation for the victims' families.

The transition towards democracy and national reconciliation will only commence when these voices and all those who support democratic rights and fundamental freedoms are included in the political dialogue on the drafting of a new constitution for Myanmar”.

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