UN rights expert urges release of Myanmar political prisoners

UN rights expert urges release of Myanmar political prisoners

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[JURIST] A UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] expert on Monday urged Myanmar’s military government to release 2,202 political prisoners [statement]. Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile; JURIST news archive], a UN Special Rapporteur, called for the release of the “prisoners of conscience,” many of whom, according to Quintana, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy:

As Myanmar attempts to move forward in its democratic transition and the new Government seeks to establish a new era of peace and prosperity for the people, it is critical that prisoners of conscience be released immediately and unconditionally. These are individuals who were imprisoned for exercising their basic human rights, the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

The prisoners, most of whom were arrested for peaceful activism, should be released until the government revises national laws to align with international law, Quintana said. Prior to the national elections on November 7, the Myanmar government indicated that it would consider releasing [UN report, PDF] some of the prisoners of conscience, but no prisoners have been released at this time.

Last month, Myanmar’s government released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], ending her almost eight years under house arrest. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] hailed her release and encouraged the country to release all political prisoners [press release]. Suu Kyi’s release came 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 country’s controversial elections [JURIST report] to issue its ruling. The elections were the first held in the country in 20 years, and have received heavy international criticism. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] in September urged [press release; JURIST report] Myanmar’s government to release all political prisoners ahead of the nation’s November elections.