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UN rights body claims Myanmar violating its own law by detaining democracy advocate

[JURIST] The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] said [press release and opinion, PDF] that the detention of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] violates Myanmar's 1975 State Protection Law [text] and pressed for her immediate release in an opinion made public Monday. A panel, composed of Judges from Chile, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, and Spain, issued a legal opinion in November arguing that Suu Kyi's detention since 2003 violates Myanmar's own laws because the law only permits detention for up to five years and only for state security reasons. The report says that her period of detention expired in May 2008 and that she does not pose a threat to Myanmar's security. Monday's report marks the first time that the UN had said that Myanmar was violating its own laws in detaining Suu Kyi. Four previous legal opinions have said that Myanmar's detention of Suu Kyi was illegal under UN law [JURIST report] and have also called for her release.

Last year, Myanmar officials defended the continued detention of Suu Kyi, saying that the 1975 law permits the government to detain Suu Kyi for up to six years [JURIST report] and pointed out that other countries like the US and the UK had similar anti-terror laws. Myanmar released 15 members of Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, last year but has so far refused [JURIST report] to release her for security reasons, despite earlier indications that it might do so.

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