11 March 2006
The Special Rapporteur on Myanmar of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights issued the following statement today:
Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro deeply regrets the continued imprisonment of the distinguished poet and editor U Win Tin, who will pass his 76th 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.
An ardent human rights defender and democracy advocate, whose courageous commitment to the cause of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights has secured him the support and respect of all those in the world, who strive 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 one thousand people currently behind bars in Myanmar for peacefully exercising their right 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 unconditionally release U Win Tin and all remaining prisoners of conscience. 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 political prisoners.