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[Statement] Human Rights Now protests the unjust sentence for Aung San Suu Kyi

15 August 2009


Human Rights Now protests the unjust sentence for Aung San Suu Kyi, and call for the immediate and unconditional release of her and other political prisoners and the initiation of a dialogue with them.

On August 11th, the Myanmar's military government sentenced Myanmar's democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to a three-year prison term.
However, shortly after that, the government ordered her to serve out a further 18 months sentence under house arrest.

Human Rights Now, an international human rights NGO based in Tokyo, strongly protests against the injustice of the sentence. Human Rights Now also demands that Myanmar's military government release Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and start the political process through a dialogue with pro-democracy forces and minority peoples.

Suu Kyi has been found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest for allowing an uninvited American man to stay at her house in early May. Her house arrest represents an illegal suppression of democracy and arbitrary detention without any true grounds. The international community as a whole has called for her immediate release (United Nations General Assembly Resolution of January 23rd, 2009). Instead of responding to the call, and even though Suu Kyi completed her initial term of house arrest on May 27th, 2008, Myanmar's military government declared that they would extend her house arrest for another year without warrant. The prosecution and conviction of Suu Kyi for violating the terms of her house arrest have no legitimate basis.
Myanmar's military government must hold a general election in 2010. However, if Suu Kyi is subjected to criminal prosecution and her house arrest is continued for a year and half, she will be unable to take part in the election (The Constitution which the junta forced through in 2008 doesn't allow a person with a criminal record to run for election). It became clear that the general election that Myanmar's military government has scheduled must exclude Suu Kyi and will therby not be worthy of being called democracy.

Countries throughout the world have issued statements condemning the sentence. In a statement on August 12th, Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, urged Myanmar's government to "immediately and unconditionally" release Suu Kyi. Ban also reminded the military government that, "Unless Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are released and allowed to participate in free and fair elections, the credibility of the political process will remain in doubt."

It is now time for Myanmar's military government to take condemnation from the international community seriously.
On August 13th, Myanmar's pro-democracy forces and ethnic minority groups, which met in Jakarta, Indonesia, announced a "Proposal for National Reconciliation" and presented a concurrent proposal toward democracy. They called for the military junta to initiate the start of a democratization process.
Now is the time for the international community to make maximum diplomatic efforts to work on the military junta to further negotiations with pro-democracy forces and ethnic minority groups, and to realize their offers to negotiate toward democratization.
The general election in 2010, which Myanmar's military government is moving to force through, is approaching. Material violation of International Human Rights Law and humanitarian law in Myanmar is getting more and more serious. The international community, including the Japanese government, needs to take concerted action, rather than merely engaging in verbal criticism.