Suu Kyi s detention illegal: UN

March 24, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Mar 23 – A UN panel has urged the release of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, saying the junta violated not only world law but also its own law by keeping her under house arrest, documents made public show.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning opposition leader’s US-based lawyer released a copy on Monday of an opinion reached by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a body of the Human Rights Council, in response to his submission.

The panel has already issued four judgments finding that Myanmar was breaking international rights law by holding Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party swept the country’s last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

In the latest opinion, the group found that Myanmar was also breaking its own 1975 State Protection Law which only allows detention without charges for those who pose a risk to state security or public peace.

The panel quoted the country’s police chief — apparently trying to diminish the influence of Aung San Suu Kyi — saying in 2006 that Myanmar would be calm if she walked free.

"Even according to the authorities themselves, the extended deprivation of liberty of Ms. Suu Kyi does not meet this already very low and subjective threshold," it said.

Jared Genser, the Washington-based legal counsel to Aung San Suu Kyi and president of Freedom Now, which works to free prisoners of conscience, conceded that the junta was unlikely to bow to UN advice on its own laws.

"I’m under no illusion that Aung San Suu Kyi will be immediately released because of this judgment. But at the same time I do think it is an important small step forward," he told AFP.

"I do think that it will have an important impact on the United Nations’ ability to press particularly China, Russia and others who have been more protective of the junta," he said.

Genser said the panel should be seen as independent as it is comprised of five experts — from Chile, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal and Spain.

A letter from the panel said that its opinion — made public at Genser’s request — would be part of its next report to the Human Rights Council.


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