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Letter Presses For Release Of Burmes Prisoners


DECEMBER 3, 2008

Letter From 112 Former Presidents And Prime Ministers Sent To UN Secretary-General Urging Him To Press For Release Of All Political Prisoners In Burma By The End Of 2008

New York and Washington, D.C. – Today, Freedom Now and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights released a letter from 112 former Presidents and Prime Ministers from more than 50 nations to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging him to personally travel to Burma before the end of the year to secure the release of the military junta's 2,100 political prisoners. Last month, more than 215 activists, National League for Democracy party members, Cylone Nargis relief workers, journalists, monks, and even some of their lawyers were each given draconian sentences of up to 68-years in prison.

This initiative has been led by the Honorable Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway and President of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. "This is a historic outpouring of global support for the people of Burma, and I am pleased that so many have joined me in spotlighting this important issue," he said. "Today we unite to call on the United Nations to take action. The first step towards achieving national reconciliation in Burma is creating a firm deadline for the release of all political prisoners."

Joining Mr. Bondevik on the letter are such luminaries as Corazon Aquino, Tony Blair, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Joaquim Chissano, Jacques Delors, Abdou Diouf, Elbegdorj Tsakhiagiin, Kim Dae-jung, Vicente Fox, Árpád Göncz, Mikhail Gorbachev, Václav Havel, John Howard, Lionel Jospin, Junichiro Koizumi, Chandrika Kumaratunga, John Major, Benjamin Mkapa, Brian Mulroney, Romano Prodi, José Ramos-Horta, Margaret Thatcher, Alejandro Toledo, Mary Robinson, and Lech Wałęsa.

The letter recalls that on October 11, 2007, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement urging the early release of all political prisoners in Burma. Further, the UN set the release of all political prisoners as one of its benchmark goals for 2008. However, in direct defiance of these calls, the junta has instead increased the number of political prisoners from 1,200 in June 2007 to over 2,100 today. "The Burmese people are counting on the United Nations to take the required action to achieve the breakthrough they desperately need to both restore democracy to their country and address the serious humanitarian and human rights challenges that they face," the letter reads. It further urges Ban Ki-moon to encourage the Security Council to take "concrete action" to implement its October 11, 2007 statement if these efforts are not successful by the end of December 2008.


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