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UN Human Rights Commission Urges Burma to Release Aung San Suu Kyi - 2004-04-21


The top U.N. human rights forum is calling for the military government in Burma to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Irish Ambassador Mary Whelan, introduced the toughly worded resolution to the Human Rights Commission Wednesday. She denounced what she said were the ongoing violations of human rights in Burma.

The ambassador expressed serious concerns about the arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party during a peaceful rally last year.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991, has been detained or under house arrest for much of the past 15 years.

Ambassador Whelan told the commission that the draft resolution calls for the government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, to restore the independence of the judiciary and due process of law.

"It strongly urges the government of Myanmar to end the systematic violation of human rights, to restore democracy and to respect the results of the 1990 elections. In this regard, it calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy," she said.

The head of the U.S. delegation to the commission, Ambassador Richard Williamson, supported this demand. He said Aung San Suu Kyi and her party's political leaders must be released so they can fully participate in any preparations for national reconciliation and democracy.

Mr. Williamson pressed the Burmese government to set out a clear timetable for the establishment of democracy in Burma.

"We remain deeply troubled by the Burmese military's abuse of ethnic minority civilians, including rapes, torture, murder, forced relocations and confiscation of property. The government continues to restrict freedom of religion, coercively promote Buddhism over other religions and impose restrictions on religious minorities," he said.

Burma's ambassador, Mya Than, was unhappy with the vote. He said Burma was at a critical juncture in its political evolution and that the resolution did not reflect this.

"We have tried in cooperation with the representatives of the friendly countries to work out a more balanced draft resolution. But despite all these efforts, my delegation as well as the representatives of the friendly countries, the outcome has fallen far short of meeting these criteria," he said.

The resolution, which was unanimously approved by the 53 members of the commission, also calls for the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners, especially the elderly and the sick. It also urges Burma's military junta to stop recruiting child soldiers.

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