(New York) - Burma's military government should heed the call in the November 18, 2010 United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners, Human Rights Watch said today.
The resolution adopted by a majority vote urges the Burmese government "to release all other prisoners of conscience, currently estimated at more than 2,100, including the chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, U Hkun Htun Oo, the leader of the 88 Generation Students Group, U Min Ko Naing, and one of the founders of the 88 Generation Students Group, Ko Ko Gyi, without delay and without conditions, and to allow their full participation in the political process."
Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on November 13, in accordance with Burmese law, days after the country held globally discredited elections that merely provide a civilian façade to continued military rule. The UN resolution "deeply regrets" that the Burmese government did not take steps to ensure a free, fair, transparent, and inclusive electoral process.
"As the world celebrates this week's release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's rulers should abide by the UN resolution and release all political prisoners in the country," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "There are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma who, like Suu Kyi, should never have been detained in the first place."
Human Rights Watch said that the General Assembly resolution should also have included the recommendation by the special rapporteur on Burma for an international commission of inquiry into violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Burma.
"Victims of war crimes in Burma can't wait until next year's Burma resolution for justice," Pearson said. "The UN system should act without delay to establish an international commission of inquiry."
Human Rights Watch's campaign, "2100 in 2010: Free Burma's Political Prisoners," aims to increase international awareness and pressure for the release of all political prisoners in Burma in 2010. It includes key facts about the arrests of civil society leaders, journalists, monks, artists, students, and other critics of Burma's military government.
Human Rights Watch said the focus should turn to the many remaining political prisoners still held in Burm's squalid prisons. They include:
- Zargana, Burma's most famous comedian, who is serving a 35-year sentence for criticizing the military government's slow response to Cyclone Nargis;
- Su Su Nway, a female labor rights activist serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence after raising a banner criticizing Burma's government at the hotel of a visiting UN special envoy;
- U Gambira, a 30-year-old monk who was one of the leaders of the peaceful protests known as the "Saffron Revolution" in August and September 2007 and is now serving a 63-year sentence;
- Min Ko Naing, a former student leader serving a 65-year sentence; and
- Nay Phone Latt, a 30-year-old blogger who used his blog to spread news about the 2007 protests and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.