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Rights group praises Suu Kyi release, urges greater action on political prisoners

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Saturday praised the release [press release] of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but urged the Myanmar government to release all political prisoners still held. AI described Suu Kyi's release [JURIST report] as "welcome," but emphasized that there are still an estimated 2,200 political prisoners held in Myanmar, the majority of which remain imprisoned for the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association. According to the rights group, these prisoners are being held in "deplorable conditions," which include inadequate food, sanitation and medical treatment, in addition to the use of torture by Myanmar authorities. AI explained:

While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release is certainly welcome, it only marks the end of an unfair sentence that was illegally extended, and is by no means a concession on the part of the authorities. ... It is high time the government of Myanmar put an end to the ongoing injustice of political imprisonment in the country, while the international community-including China, India, ASEAN and the UN-must act together to prevent Myanmar from abusing its legal system to penalize peaceful opponents.
The rights group went on to claim that these prisoners have also been moved to remote locations, restricting access to family and legal assistance, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website] has been denied access to them since 2005.

AI's statement mirrors one released in September [JURIST report], urging Myanmar to release all political prisoners ahead of the nation's November elections—the first to be held in 20 years. AI's statement marked the third anniversary of the violent government crackdown on activism in response to the Saffron Revolution [Independent backgrounder], a peaceful pro-democracy movement led by Buddhist monks. According to AI, these prisoners "constitute a significant part of the political opposition." Suu Kyi was released Saturday, days after the Myanmar Supreme Court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] challenging the conditions of her house arrest. Though the challenge was originally scheduled to be heard in October, the court waited until after the controversial elections [JURIST report] to issue its ruling.

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