Letter: Ongoing detention of a Nobel laureate in Burma

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The Independent Online
Sir: We, the undersigned Nobel Peace Laureates, write to express our grave concern over the continued detention in Burma of our sister laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the State Law and Order Restoration Council's (SLORC) denial of her fundamental rights of free speech and political association. Along with hundreds of other political prisoners, she remains illegally detained in Burma and must be set free.

In awarding the Peace Prize in 1991, the Nobel Committee commended Aung San Suu Kyi for her particular integrity and self-sacrifice, and her consistent and effective practice of Gandhian principles of non-violence in the face of severe threats to her life and to those of her followers. The committee singled out her insistence on the primacy of human rights and equality of justice for all of Burma's ethnic minorities. It is indeed tragic that these values and practices have resulted in her

detention.

In 1988, the SLORC's predecessors in the military government acquiesced to the requests of the people of Burma to hold democratic elections and engage in the democratic process. No sooner had Aung San Suu Kyi become leader of the National League for Democracy, than she was jailed for her political activities, eight months prior to the election.

Despite the imprisonment of their leader, the democratic party she led while in detention won an overwhelming majority of seats in the national parliament. Soon after these elections, the SLORC incarcerated many democratically elected politicians for taking part in the democratic process.

The isolation of Aung San Suu Kyi for three and a half years belies the SLORC's declared intention to allow a transition to civilian rule. During most of this period, she has been denied access even to her immediate family. Following Gandhian precepts, she has fasted in protest not only against her own detention but also the imprisonment of her followers.

With the support of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, in Montreal, Canada, a number of our fellow Nobel Peace Laureates intended to travel to Rangoon, Burma. Their objective was to meet with the highest officials of the SLORC, and to secure the immediate and unconditional release of our imprisoned sister laureate and the hundreds of other prisoners of conscience whose only crime against the state has been the non-violent expression of their beliefs.

The visas to enter Burma were denied by the SLORC regime and instead the mission is travelling to the Thai-Burma border in order to receive personal accounts of the continuing human rights atrocities occurring in Burma.

We call on the SLORC to honour its commitment to the elected National Assembly, to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all the imprisoned assembly members, to allow the democratically elected civilian government to rule in its own sphere, and thus to permit the constitutional process to begin anew.

Yours faithfully,

LINUS C. PAULING (1962); MAIREAD MAGUIRE, BETTY WILLIAMS (1976); ADOLFO PEREZ ESQUIVEL (1980); DESMOND TUTU (1984); ELIE WIESEL (1986); OSCAR ARIAS (1987), TENZIN GYATSO - THE DALAI LAMA (1989); MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (1990); RIGOBERTA MENCHU TUM (1992); INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (1904); AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE (1947); AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (1977); INTERNATIONAL PHYSICIANS FOR THE PREVENTION OF NUCLEAR WAR (1985)

Montreal, Canada

10 February

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