Letter: Nobel Prize-winners call for Burmese leader's release

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The Independent Online
Sir: For five years now the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in detention without trial in violation of her fundamental rights. As well, she has been unable to fulfil her mandate as the elected leader of the Burmese people.

We, the undersigned Nobel Peace Laureates, on the occasion of this sad anniversary, wish once again to express our concern over her arrest and the denial of her fundamental rights of free speech and political association. We condemn the State Law and Order Restoration Council's (SLORC) suppression of her rights and those of other political prisoners illegally detained in Burma.

In awarding the peace prize in 1991, the Nobel Committee commended Aung San Suu Kyi for her integrity, self-sacrifice and consistent and effective practice of the principle of non-violence in the face of threats to her life and the lives of her followers. The committee praised her commitment to the primacy of human rights and equality for all of Burma's peoples.

As fellow laureates, we, too, endorse these principles. Several of us were honoured last year to reaffirm our admiration for the struggle Aung San Suu Kyi personifies, by participation in a mission to Thailand and Geneva calling for her release. This year, we are encouraged by the solidarity expressed by democratically elected parliamentarians from 40 countries, who have signed the Global Parliamentary Appeal for Burma, and by the resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which calls for the involvement of the Secretary-General in the resolution of the crisis that is modern Burma.

In 1988, the SLORC's predecessors in the military government acquiesced in the requests of the people of Burma to hold democratic elections. As soon as our sister laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, became leader of the National League for Democracy, she was jailed for her political activities, 10 months before the election.

Five years have passed. Even according to the SLORC's own draconian laws, Suu Kyi cannot be held any longer than five years without trial. The long and unjust incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi belies the SLORC's declared intention to allow a transition to civilian rule.

We therefore call on the State Law and Order Restoration Council to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all the assembly members currently imprisoned, and to begin serious discussions with these and other representative groups with the intention of allowing the constitutional process leading to democracy to begin anew.

We applaud Aung San Suu Kyi's adherence to the principles of non-violence and human rights. We condemn the cruel treatment she has suffered at the hands of the SLORC. She must be set free.

Yours faithfully,

OSCAR ARIAS (Nobel Peace Prize, 1987), ADOLFO PEREZ ESQUIVEL (1980), MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (1990), MALREAD CORRIGAN MAGUIRE (1976), RIGOBERTA MENCHU (1992), LECH WALESA (1983), ELIE WIESEL (1986), BETTY WILLIAMS (1976), DESMOND TUTU (1984), THE DALAI LAMA (1989), INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL LAW (1904), AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE (1947), LINUS PAULING INSTITUTE (1962), INTERNATIONAL PHYSICIANS FOR THE PREVENTION OF NUCLEAR WAR (1985)

Montreal, Quebec

Canada

12 July

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