There are many political prisoners in Burma whose cases are well documented
There are still many political prisoners in jails across Burma, despite prisoner amnesties and claims that there are no more political prisoners.
The release of all remaining political prisoners must be secured immediately and unconditionally.
You can write to your local TD or to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan, highlighting the issue of political prisoners.
A draft letter is outlined below.
We are writing to express our concern that the Burmese government is continuing to arrest farmers, activists, human rights defenders, and ethnic minorities. This is despite the Burmese government’s claim that all political prisoners/prisoners of conscience were to be released by the end of December 2013.
The release of hundreds of political prisoners in the past three years has been long overdue and is very welcome. However, many individuals have been granted conditional amnesty only and hundreds more are currently being processed by Burma’s courts or detained without charges. Even those who are fortunate enough to be recognised as political prisoners and subsequently released are subject to intimidation and re-arrest. Mading Zau Bawk is a 23-year-old Kachin farmer who was arrested in May 2012 and tortured brutally by the military-backed government in Burma. While he was farming, he was arrested by Burmese Army 37th battalion on suspicion of being a solider from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation, which works for democracy and more autonomy for the Kachin people.
He was kept in a dark cell for several days when he was first arrested. During interrogation, he was beaten and hit on the head with a gun. He was brutally tortured and forced to confess. According to a family member, he has been suffering pain all over his body due to severe beatings and he has had trouble hearing. He is currently still on trial and he has been charged under the Unlawful Associations Act 17(1), which the military-backed government in Burma uses to ban people from associating with pro-democracy groups.
The military-backed government in Burma should stop using unlawful arrest and torture against innocent civilians.
Fundamental reforms to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee are needed if it is to start to address the decades-long problem of political prisoners in Burma.
Ten key reforms should be made to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee.
A reformed Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee should:
1. Review the cases of all those charged or deprived of their liberty simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights, with a view to securing their release and having the charges against them dropped;
2. Review all laws used to charge and detain political prisoners, and recommend to Parliament the repeal or amendment of all such laws to bring them in line with international human rights law and standards;
3. Formulate and present recommendations to the relevant authorities aimed at ending the abuse of the criminal law to fabricate criminal charges against individuals for politically motivated reasons;
4. Ensure that all conditions attached to the release of political prisoners are lifted;
5. Provide support and assistance to former political prisoners and their families by ensuring that they have effective access to restitution, compensation, assistance in gaining access to education and employment opportunities and other forms of rehabilitation to enable them to resume a normal life.
6. Share with the public its mandate, its terms of reference, and operational procedures, and publish regular activity reports;
7. Be properly resourced, receive appropriate support and co-operation from government offices, and be given access to prisons, prisons’ records and the authority to question relevant state officials;
8. Invite a sufficient number of additional members to join the Committee who are selected according to objective and relevant criteria, including their independence and expertise in human rights issues, so as to ensure that the Committee overall has adequate gender and ethnic representation, as well as expertise on gender issues and children’s rights. The Committee should be comprised of a wide range of stakeholders, including former political prisoners and their representatives;
9. Ensure resources are provided to build the human rights capacity of Committee members and seek technical assistance and advice from external experts in this regard;
10. Ensure the Committee’s programme of work is developed in consultation with former political prisoners, their families and representatives, and takes into account the different experiences of women and men.
Without these key reforms to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee, the issue of political prisoners will remain unsolved. Therefore, I would like to urge you to pressure the Burmese government to reform the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee, and secure the unconditional release of all political prisoners in the country.
Write to the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Mr. Charles Flanagan
This powerful film tells the story of Burma’s unsung heroes, the political prisoners whose commitment to democracy and freedom is inspiring.
More Actions on Prisoners
Sein Than. Sein Than, a community leader, was arrested on 31st July 2014 for protesting without government permission. He was charged under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law. He was sentenced to two years in prison and he is currently serving his sentence in Insein prison.