Friday, 1 August 2008

Press for Release of Political Prisoners, Say Activists

Tomas Ojea Quintana from Argentina, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma. (Photo: AP)


The Irrawaddy News

The new UN human rights rapporteur for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, should visit political prisoners and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and forcefully press for their release during his first visit to Burma next week, say human rights activists.

The new UN human rights rapporteur is scheduled to visit Burma from August 3 to 7 discuss human rights issues with the Burmese military government.

Tate Naing, the secretary of a Thailand-based Burmese prisoners’ rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP), said the new UN human rights repporteur should meet with long-term political prisoners including Win Tin, a prominent journalist, as well as detained leaders of the 88 Generation Students group.

“We want to urge him to try to meet and discuss freely with the Win Tin, and the 88 Generation Students group including Min Ko Naing. It is also necessary to ask for their release,” said Tate Naing.

Dozens of leaders of the 88 Generation Students group are currently detained in Insein Prison. They were arrested in August 2007 following protests against sharp increases in fuel enacted by the Burmese regime.

Benjamin Zawacki, an Amnesty International researcher on Burma, said, “We will hope that the special rapporteur can persuade the government of Myanmar to release all prisoners of conscience immediately.

During his visit, Quintana said he hoped to meet with Burmese generals, heads of state institutions, political parties, ethnic groups, religious groups and members of nongovernmental organizations in Burma.

The UN said on Thursday in a statement announcing the visit, “The special rapporteur wishes to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities with a view to improving the human rights situation of the people of Myanmar.”

The new UN human rights rapporteur also requested to visit areas in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta which were devastated by Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3, in addition to Karen and Arakan states.

In May 2008, Quintana took over from Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who served as UN special rapporteur from December 2000 to April 2008.

Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general's special adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, is scheduled to visit Burma in mid-August. It will be his fourth visit in order to persuade the Burmese regime to move toward democratic reforms and the release of political detainees.

No comments: