UN slams Suu Kyi’s ‘unlawful’ detention

The continued detention of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in violation of international law, said an independent body of the UN’s Human Rights Council in a letter sent to the Burmese government.

Suu Kyi, who will turn 65 on Saturday, has been held under house arrest for 14 of the last 20, and continuously since 2003. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled that her detention is “in contravention of articles 9, 10, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, which forbid arbitrary arrest, closed-court hearings and suppression of free speech and assembly.

The Nobel laureate “was not informed of the reasons for her arrest [and] had no effective remedy to challenge her detention,” it said. “No records were given to her; she was never informed of her rights; she has been denied communication with the [o]utside world; and is being detained because of her political views.”

Calls from world leaders urging her release have consistently fallen on deaf ears, with her current period of house arrest handed down in August last year on charges of ‘sheltering’ US citizen John Yettaw, who swam across Rangoon’s Inya lake and took refuge at her house. Yettaw was released days after Suu Kyi’s sentencing.

The opposition icon’s first period under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 provided a pretext for the Burmese junta to deny her office after her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 82 percent of seats in the 1990 elections. She was again sentenced in 2000 for two years before being released in 2002. But following a 2003 attack by junta-backed thugs on a convoy carrying her supporters, which came to be known as the Depayin massacre, she was put back under house arrest.

When her husband Michael Aris was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, the Burmese government denied him a visa to the country, instead urging Suu Kyi to leave Burma and visit him. This she refused, knowing that she would never be allowed to return, and Aris died in 1999, having only seen her five times over the course of a decade.

A recent statement released by state media in Burma claimed that the country “always respects UN declarations and decisions as it is a UN member country.”

Jared Genser, international counsel for Suu Kyi and head of the Washington-based Freedom Now group, said however that the Burmese junta “continues to flagrantly violate international law”.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be sixty-five years old this Saturday, June 19th – another birthday spent unjustly confined,” he said.

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