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US Raises Burma Rights Issue at UN Security Council


The United States has again brought Burma's human rights record to the attention of The U.N. Security Council. Six of the council's 15 members joined in calling for the release of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The issue of human rights in Burma is not formally on the Security Council's agenda. But the United States Friday raised the question of the Rangoon government's detention of political prisoners during an informal closed-door council meeting.

Diplomats attending the session say five other countries joined the United States in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest.

As he emerged from the meeting, Acting Deputy U.S. Representative Gerald Scott said the occasion for raising the issue was the detained Burmese opposition leader's 60th birthday last Sunday.

"The United States has taken this occasion to express our serious concern about the fact that the situation in Burma continues to decline. At least 1,300 political prisoners [are] in that country, and we felt under these circumstances it was appropriate to raise this point with other representatives of the international community," said Mr. Scott.

Several European diplomats confirmed that the other five Council members expressing concern about Aung San Suu Kyi's detention were Britain, France, Denmark, Greece, and Romania.

But in recognition of the sharp divisions within the Security Council on the Burma question, Ambassador Scott acknowledged that, technically, there was no discussion of the matter, only comments from envoys wishing to speak.

"These were consultations rather than a public meeting in the Council, and I would rather just make the point of how strongly we feel about it, and how we've set this issue one more time underline the issue, but I would rather not characterize the reaction and would let other delegate representatives speak for themselves," he added.

Other U.S. and European diplomats say Russia and China object to putting Burma on the council agenda. Russia's deputy U.N. representative Konstantin Dolgov said his country would have nothing to say on the issue.

"I will not comment on the substance of the matter because the matter has not been brought before the council formally," he noted.

Several world leaders, including President Bush and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, along with 14 of her fellow Nobel peace prize winners, called for Aung San Suu Kyi's release last week when she celebrated her 60th birthday. She has spent nine of the past 16 years either behind bars or under house arrest.

Organizers say the birthday effort is modeled after the 1988 "Mandela at 70" campaign to free Nelson Mandela from imprisonment in apartheid-era South Africa. Aung San Suu Kyi is confined to her two-story family home in Rangoon, sealed off around the clock by security forces.

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