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Burma’s Most Prominent Leaders Hauled Into Court (click to view PDF)

Move Seen as Rejection of UN Security Council

U.S. Campaign for Burma Press Release

September 2, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) In a blunt rejection of the United Nations Security Council and just days after two UN envoys traveled to Burma seeking democratic change and improvements in human rights, the country’s military regime has hauled dozens of Burma’s most prominent democracy activists from prison cells into court in order to begin “sham” trials that will likely result in their long-term incarceration. 

The move is seen as a rejection of the UN Security Council, which called for the release of all political prisoners, stating: “The Security Council emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees.” The Council also said “The Security Council stresses the need for the Government of Myanmar to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations.”

“By forcing Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, and the 88 Generation Students into a sham trial instead of releasing them, the Burmese regime has refused to cooperate with the UN Security Council,” said Aung Din, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “If the Security Council wants to have any credibility at all, it must take strong action immediately, such as banning all weapons sales to the military regime.”

The group — known as the “88 Generation Students” — has won many international awards and is comprised of Burma’s most prominent human rights activists after Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. After Burma’s military regime drastically raised the price of fuel in August 2007, the 88 Generation Students organized a non-violent protest walk in which they were joined by hundreds of everyday Burmese people. The 88 students were immediately arrested and have been held ever since. Anger at the arrests and the Burmese regime’s treatment of Buddhist monks spiraled into last September’s “Saffron Revolution” that saw hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks marching peacefully for change.

Burma’s judiciary is widely seen as a kangaroo court system in which judges sentence human rights activists based on orders from the military regime in close-door trials.

On Tuesday, September 2nd the student leaders were brought to a court in Insein Prison, ordered by the judge to continue their detention, and then ordered to appear in court again next week. All of the student leaders (7 women and 28 men) have received multiple charges by the regime’s prosecutors. None of them were allowed to meet with their lawyers.

The most prominent of them, Min Ko Naing, has won numerous international awards for his peaceful, nonviolent calls for change in Burma including the Civil Courage Prize from the Northcote Parkinson Fund in the United States, the Homo Homini Award from People in Need in the Czech Republic, the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Canada, and the Student Peace Prize, widely considered the “junior” Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.

In the United States, President Bush signed the Tom Lantos Burma Jade Act into law on July 29th after it passed with overwhelming support from the Congress. On August 22nd, the U.S. State Department issued a call for Burma’s military regime to comply with demands made by the UN Security Council and release the 88 Generation Students.