The Elders demand release of Aung San Suu Kyi

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Tuesday, 26 May, 2009

The Elders call on the Burmese military regime to release their honorary Elder Aung San Suu Kyi and question the legitimacy of upcoming national elections in 2010.

Eminent global leaders question legitimacy of 2010 elections

The Elders - a group of eminent global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela - have repeated their call for the release of their fellow Elder Aung San Suu Kyi as her latest 6-year period of house arrest is due to expire.

Chair of The Elders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said: "Despite the latest efforts to exclude and silence our sister Aung San Suu Kyi, she remains a symbol of hope for her nation and the world. We are moved by her courage and dignity. She shows the same steel as Nelson Mandela, who endured 27 years in prison. Like him, she has right and goodness on her side."

Daw Suu Kyi is due for release on 27 May after 6 years under house arrest, but was re-arrested on 13 May and is being held in the notorious Insein prison with thousands of other political prisoners. Her re-arrest followed an uninvited visit to her house by an American citizen. Daw Suu Kyi, her doctor and two staff members are on trial and face five years in prison if found guilty.

Former United States President Jimmy Carter said: "Aung San Suu Kyi is a hero for those who believe in human rights and democracy. Her ongoing detention is a further reflection on the integrity of the government."

Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: "It hurts profoundly that an eminent woman leader has been wrongly held under house arrest for 6 years and now faces being even further punished for conduct over which she had no control."

The Elders are currently meeting in Morocco and have kept an empty chair for Aung San Suu Kyi, as they always do. Their discussions covered a range of global issues, including events in Burma/Myanmar.

The Elders urge ASEAN governments in particular to make it clear to Myanmar's leaders that their current actions are jeopardising the legitimacy of elections due in 2010 and the results will not be recognised unless minimum conditions are met.

Those conditions should include the release of all political prisoners, an inclusive national process to review the 2008 constitution and participation by the NLD and other parties in the 2010 election. International observers must also be allowed to supervise the 2010 poll.

The Elders also address the government of Myanmar - urging leaders to increase spending on the health, education and welfare of the people and to accept further humanitarian assistance to help alleviate their country's poverty and suffering.

Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian Foreign Minister, called on ASEAN leaders to send a strong message to the government of Burma/Myanmar: "ASEAN must put the wellbeing of the people of Burma and the region above all else. My fellow Elders and I urge ASEAN to insist that minimum election conditions are met as an important step towards ending the terrible suffering and poverty of the Burmese people.

"The legitimacy of the 2010 poll is dependent on the government meeting those minimum conditions. If it does not, ASEAN and the rest of the world should not accept the election results."

Former Brazilian President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, said: "The government of Myanmar is looking for acceptance, especially in the region. The leaders must be told that their current efforts will result in failure. The path to acceptance is inclusive dialogue with the NLD and other parties, the release of political prisoners and peaceful transition to a more open society."

The Elders said that the entire trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and her companions is a gross travesty of justice.

Desmond Tutu: "We should be very aware that this government will try to convince the world that they are making concessions in relation to Aung San Suu Kyi. I fear that they will find her guilty - but return her to house arrest instead of prison. This is not a concession - it is a manipulation of an illegal process. It must not be accepted by any government, ASEAN or the UN. She must be freed."

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