UN expert urges Myanmar to release all political prisoners
The UN human rights expert on Myanmar on Monday urged the military regime to release about 2,200 remaining prisoners of conscience, a month after the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, made his appeal following the death of a 50-year-old Buddhist monk in captivity on Wednesday.
"He is the 145th prisoner of conscience to die in prison since 1988," Quitana said in a statement.
"One month after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release, I call upon the Government of Myanmar to release the remaining prisoners of conscience, currently estimated to be at least 2,202, many of whom are right now suffering serious health problems from the harsh conditions of their detention," he added.
"A release would be a very strong signal that the new government of Myanmar intends to uphold these fundamental freedoms and would be welcomed by both people inside and outside the country."
The monk, U Naymeinda, was arrested for distributing leaflets supporting a pro-democracy demonstration in 1999 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He died after being trasferred to Moulmein prison, far from his family, according to Quintana.
He also expressed concern about reports that several prisoners in Insein prison were suffering from malnutrition-related diseases and tuberculosis.
Quintana said the government had indicated before elections last month that it might release some detainees, but no prisoners of conscience were freed.
The UN expert called on the regime to release them before the new parliament debates changes to national laws.
Myanmar held its first election in two decades on November 7, which was widely criticised by democracy activists and Western governments because of severe restrictions on opponents and voting conditions.
© 2010 AFP