Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been awarded the 2009 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience award. The announcement was made by Irish rock band U2 in Dublin on Monday night.
U2’s lead singer Bono announced Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s award before the band performed the song ‘Walk On’, which they have dedicated to her on every night of their ‘360 Degrees’ tour.
“Her crime is that if she were to participate in elections, she’d win,” Bono told the crowd. “This week, the brutal force that has her incarcerated will decide in a mock trial if she will spend the next five years in a prison. We must not stand by as she is silenced again. Now is the time for the UN and the entire international community to speak with one voice: Free Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Bono was joined on stage for the song by dozens of Amnesty International activists wearing masks of the Burmese pro-democracy leader, in front of a capacity crowd of 80,000.
“It was a tremendously powerful event,” said Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman. “The crowd was visibly uplifted by the band’s message of support for Aung San Suu Kyi and for human rights.”
Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remained “a symbol of hope, courage and undying defence of human rights, not only to the people of Myanmar but to people around the world.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, is one of over 2,100 people currently imprisoned in Myanmar for their political beliefs. She has been detained for over 13 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest.
Her house detention order was set to expire on 27 May 2009 but she was arrested and placed on trial on 18 May for violating the terms and conditions of her house arrest . The trial concluded on 28 July and a verdict is expected soon. If convicted, she could face up to five years in jail.
Vaclav Havel, who received the inaugural Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2003, said: ‘I know from my own experience that international attention can, to a certain extent, protect the unjustly persecuted from punishments that would otherwise be imposed.
“That is why, shortly after I was elected President [of the Czech Republic], I nominated Mrs Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize. Goodness knows what would have happened if her fate had not been highlighted, as it is again today.”
The Ambassador of Conscience Award, now in its sixth year, is Amnesty International’s most prestigious award. It recognises exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights. Past winners of the award include U2, Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela and Mary Robinson.