This from the U.S. Campaign for Burma:
- PRESS RELEASE:
August 5th, 2008
Verdict Due: World’s Only Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient to be Sentenced In Six Days
Desmond Tutu Calls for UN Security Council to Take Action
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924
(Washington, DC) On Tuesday, August 11th, Burma’s military regime will issue a verdict against the leader of the Southeast Asian country’s democracy movement, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.
If the military regime continues to keep her locked behind bars, it is likely that focus will shift to the United Nations Security Council, where Burma remains on the permanent agenda.
Human rights groups throughout the world are pressing for the Council to adopt a global arms embargo on the military regime, as well as an official investigation into crimes against humanity committed under miltary rule.
“Many world leaders have called for change in Burma, but now it is time to go beyond words and take concrete action at the UN Security Council,” said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “The world has many options, and with the United Kingdom and United States serving as President of the Security Council in August and September, there is an unparalleled opportunity for action.”
South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu called for specific measures by the UN Security Council in a recent opinion piece in the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper, writing that
“Burma’s generals are criminals, and must be treated as such. Than Shwe should be held accountable for abominable atrocities: his soldiers rape ethnic women and children, they torture, mutilate and murder at will. In eastern Burma, more than 3,300 ethnic villages have been destroyed, more than in Darfur. Civilians are deliberately targeted and shot on sight. The UN must establish a commission of inquiry, with a view to compiling evidence for prosecution. Failure to do so amounts to complicity with these crimes.”
Suu Kyi was put on trial after an American man, John Yettaw, swam across the lake behind her home and broke in her house, where she was being held under house arrest for the past 6 years. Yettaw said he had a “vision” that Suu Kyi would be assassinated and wanted to warn her. Even though she asked Yettaw to leave, the Burmese regime has ridiculously blamed Suu Kyi for the man breaking into her home, and charged her with breaking the terms of her house arrest.
Suu Kyi narrowly survived an assassination attempt by the military regime in May 2003, when dozens of her party members were beaten to death by regime thugs.
Under the Burmese military regime’s interpretation of its own laws, Suu Kyi’s house arrest was coming to an end this year, and while most international observers believe the regime was not going to release her anyway, the break-in by Yettaw provided the regime the pretext it sought to keep her locked up.
Suu Kyi’s ongoing house arrest had already been ruled illegal under both Burmese and international law by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the trial “outrageous”.
Burma’s military regime has just completed a new constitution that guarantees military rule for decades to come, but also allows an extremely circumscribed election to be held in 2010. It is believed that even though the military will maintain complete control after the election, the regime wants to stop Suu Kyi from supporting any candidates. The constitution was written to bar her from running for office, with a clause preventing anyone who has children living abroad from participation (Suu Kyi’s children live overseas).
Suu Kyi was originally due to be sentenced on Friday, July 31st but the military regime moved the date, it is believed, in part to diminish international media coverage of the sentence. At the same time, the military regime often chooses dates which are considered to be “lucky” for the head of the regime, Than Shwe, which includes the number 11. Thus, the date August 11th is relevant. In a recent example of the use of numbers, the regime sentenced leading dissident Min Ko Naing on November 11th, 2007 with a sentence of 65 years (6 + 5 = 11). The military regime also used the number 11 in its choice of dates to move its capitol city from Rangoon to Naypitaw in 2005, with the Washington Times reporting the move commenced on “November 11th, 2005, at 11 a.m. in 1,100 trucks carrying 11 government ministries”.
“While the military regime may use numerology to choose dates for major decisions, there is no evidence to suggest that the underlying decisions themselves are influenced by numerology or superstition,” said Aung Din. “Than Shwe’s military regime has acted with cold, calculated brutality in attempting to crush Burma’s democracy movement,” which is comprised of students, Buddhist monks, and members of Suu Kyi’s political party the National League for Democracy, added Aung Din.
Aung San Suu Kyi has spent nearly 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest and in prison. Most Burmese people see her in a similar vein as South African’s view Nelson Mandela, as the rightful leader and moral compass of the nation. Yet, she is not just an admired human rights leader, she is the rightful leader of Burma. In 1990, she led a political party, the National League for Democracy, to win 82% of the seats in parliament during Burma’s first election in decades. Military affiliated parties won only 10 seats in parliament, a stunning rebuke to military rule.
Suu Kyi was incarcerated before the election, but her party still coasted to a landslide victory. The Burmese regime refused to recognize the election results, locking up members of parliament and imprisoning (currently) over 2,100 political prisoners.
Suu Kyi counts among her supporters numerous Nobel Peace Prize recipients, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Hollywood actors Anjelica Huston, Jim Carrey, Eric Szmanda, Walter Koenig, and Maggie Q, musicians Ani DiFranco, Damien Rice, R.E.M., and U2, and over 100 former presidents and prime ministers throughout the world.
Her writing has invigorated a vibrant international movement calling for change in Burma, and sustained an active democracy movement inside Burma, despite overwhelming government pressure.
In July, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Burma to seek the release of Suu Kyi, but in a major snub Than Shwe refused to allow him to meet the Nobel laureate.
There is ample evidence for action on Burma at the Security Council. A recent report by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Law Clinic found that the United Nations is sitting on evidence showing that the military regime has carried out serious crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma, including the destruction of as many villages as in the Darfur region of Sudan.
At the same time, the regime has recruited tens of thousands of child soldiers, forced 1.5 million people to flee their homes as refugees and internally displaced, and carried out a widespread campaign of rape against ethnic minority women under a system of impunity. 55 members of the U.S. Congress, led by Congressmen Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Don Manzullo (R-IL) recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to pursue an official investigation into Burma by the UN Security Council — the first step toward the creation of an international criminal tribunal or a referral to the International Criminal Court that would try military leaders for crimes against humanity. U.K. Ambassador John Sawers serves as President of the UN Security Council in August. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice holds the same position in September.
Sign a petition to Ambassador Sawers and Ambassador Rice here.