For Immediate Release
Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi Verdict ‘Reprehensible’
Burma’s Allies Should Increase Pressure for Her Release
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a reprehensible abuse of power by
Burma's military government, Human Rights Watch said today. Human
Rights Watch called on Burma's allies and other governments to condemn
the verdict, demand the Nobel Prize laureate's immediate and
unconditional release, and impose additional targeted sanctions against
the military leadership.
On August 11, 2009, a criminal court inside Insein prison in Rangoon
sentenced Suu Kyi to 3 years of imprisonment for violating her order
for house arrest, with the sentence reduced to 18 months, to be served
under house arrest.
"This trial was a farce, a brutal distortion of the legal process,"
said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "By silencing
prominent opponents through bogus trials, the generals are clearly
showing why the elections they have been touting for next year won't
Police arrested Suu Kyi, 64, and her two assistants, Khin Khin Win,
65, and her daughter, Win Ma Ma, 41, on May 14, 2009, and transferred
them to Insein prison in the commercial capital, Rangoon. They went on
trial on May 18, charged with breaching the terms of Suu Kyi's house
arrest order by permitting the uninvited visit of an American, John
William Yettaw, on May 4 and 5.
Yettaw has been sentenced to 7 years in prison with hard labor,
convicted of the same charges of breaching Aung San Suu Kyi's detention
order, and with breaching immigration laws. All four defendants were
charged under the draconian State Emergency Act (also known as the Law
to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause
Criminal trials of political prisoners in Burma do not meet
international fair trial standards. The judges are not independent, and
the defense does not have an adequate opportunity to present its case.
Suu Kyi's trial lasted from May 18 to July 31, with frequent delays.
The court permitted 14 witnesses for the prosecution, but only two for
the defense, despite several appeals by Suu Kyi's lawyers to present
The trial has been closed to the public, with foreign diplomats and
the press only permitted to observe the trial on a few occasions. The
prosecution claimed that Suu Kyi was jointly responsible with the
authorities, who place guards around her home, for the breach of
security on her residence, and, therefore, the intrusion violated the
terms of her house arrest.
"There was never any doubt that the verdict would be a purely
political decision," said Adams. "Any suggestion that evidence
presented or excluded had any impact on the outcome of this fraudulent
trial is ridiculous."
Suu Kyi's trial had already been widely condemned by the
international community. US President Barack Obama called it "a show
trial." The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, visited Burma on July 3
and 4, but was denied access to Suu Kyi. Even a normally close ally of
the Burmese government, Singapore, expressed "dismay" at the arrest,
calling it "a setback for the national reconciliation process."
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also
called for her release: a statement by the ASEAN chair, Thailand,
"expresse[d] grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi," reminding Burma's military government that "as a
responsible member of ASEAN, [Burma] has the responsibility to protect
and promote human rights."
Human Rights Watch called on ASEAN to use the recently formed ASEAN
Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, the terms of reference
for which were agreed on July 20, to hold the Burmese government to
account for its actions.
Burma's supporters and trade partners - namely China, Russia, India,
and ASEAN member states - should denounce this verdict and explore
measures to impose targeted financial sanctions against the military
leadership in Burma. Countries already imposing targeted sanctions -
including the US, the European Union, Switzerland, Australia, and
Canada - should expand and tighten the existing targeted financial
sanctions, which focus on individual abusers and companies but not the
population at large.
The UN Security Council should condemn Burma strongly and finally
move to take meaningful action against Burma's military rulers. This
could include an international arms embargo and other targeted
sanctions on Burma.
"Burma's allies, such as China, Russia, and India, need to exert
pressure on Burma's military rulers to free Suu Kyi immediately," said
Adams. "It's time for ASEAN, the UN, and concerned governments to match
their words of condemnation with action."
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.