UN rights chief urges Yangon to free Suu Kyi, others

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United Nations, May 22 (UNI) The top UN rights official has called upon Myanmar to release unconditionally Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in the southeast nation.

'' The release of Suu Kyi and others will demonstrate a willingness to abide by universally accepted human rights standards,'' High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement.

Copies of the statement released in Geneva yesterday were made available at the UN headquarters in New York.

'' It would also, I believe, facilitate national dialogue and free the government and the people to focus on the need to unite the country and to allow the emergence of democratic structures to decide on the way forward.'' The current detention term of Ms Suu Kyi, the general-secretary of the National League for Democracy, ends on 27 May. She has been held for 11 years without charge or trial since her party and its allies won the 1990 election with more than 80 per cent of the parliamentary seats. She has been under house arrest for four years, and has spent 11 of the past 17 years in detention.

Ms Suu Kyi is one of more than 1,000 known people held in prisons and labour camps across Myanmar.

The rights official also offered her office's support for Yangon ''in any efforts towards democratisation by addressing the complex human rights crisis faced by the country, including the situation of political prisoners.'' Earlier this month, more than a dozen UN human rights experts urged in unison the Myanmar authorities to free Ms Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

'' As one of the world's most acclaimed human rights defenders, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is a major political and spiritual leader of Myanmar,'' the experts said in a statement issued at the United Nations. '' Her tireless commitment to nonviolence, truth and human rights has made her a worthy symbol through whom the plight of all people in Myanmar may be recognised.'' The stability of Myanmar, they said, '' is not well served by the arrest and detention of several political leaders or by the severe and sustained restrictions on the exercise of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.'' UNI

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