There are over 2,100 political prisoners languishing in prisons all over Burma. On 13 March, Burma’s Human Rights Day, a global signature campaign will start. Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now! aims to collect 888,888 signatures before 24 May 2009, the legal date that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be released from house arrest. The petition calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma, as the essential first step towards democracy in the country.
Daw Aung Suu Kyi says, “We are all prisoners in our own country.” Political prisoners are not criminals. They have courageously spoken out on behalf of those who have been silenced. The release of all political prisoners is the essential first step towards freedom and democracy in Burma. There can be no democratic transition without them. They must be allowed to freely participate in any future democratic political process.
The campaign will be run from four different pillars. The first will be the support of activities held inside Burma. Secondly, there will be activities by border-based organisations for the people of Burma living and working in exile. Thirdly, regional groups will work together to generate awareness in the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, international solidarity groups like Burma Action Ireland, will conduct a campaign across Europe, North America and Australia.
Our aim is to work with Burma support groups all over the world to reach out to a new population of people who have never heard of Burma or about the situation of political prisoners. Political prisoners in Burma come from all parts of society. We want to build an equivalent global support network: political activists, poets, religious leaders, singers, journalists, and everyday citizens.
The voices of 888,888 global citizens will add vital weight and credibility to the ongoing advocacy work. Together with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) and Forum for Democracy in Burma, solidarity groups around the world can collect signatures and host events to bring the issue of political prisoners further into the public domain. Together we can reach our target of 888,888 signatures for Burma. For additional information contact www.fbppn.net
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Questions & Answers
- The military government claims that there are no political prisoners in Burma, only criminals. What is a political prisoner? In the words of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the only Nobel Peace Prize winner currently imprisoned, “Political prisoners have not committed any crime other than that of expressing their political beliefs, either through word or through action.” Political prisoners are ordinary people who have sacrificed their freedom for peace, democracy and the well-being of their people.
- Why is the release of political prisoners in Burma so important? Daw Aung Suu Kyi says, “We are all prisoners in our own country.” Political prisoners have courageously spoken out on behalf of those who have been silenced. The release of all political prisoners is the essential first step towards freedom and democracy in Burma. Political prisoners are not criminals. There can be no democratic transition without them. They must be allowed to freely participate in any future democratic political process.
- Are you calling for Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma? The military junta has shown complete disregard for Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy Ibrahim Gambari. A higher level of diplomacy is required. We call on Ban Ki-moon to make every effort, through every available channel, to secure their release as soon as possible. However it is up to Ban Ki-moon to decide when he should go to Burma. He has already said he does not want to go unless he can get tangible results, and we support that view.
- What exactly should Ban Ki-moon do? Two of Ban Ki-moon’s stated priorities during his time in office are peace and security, and human rights. Without the essential process of national reconciliation in Burma, the current unresolved conflict will further deteriorate and the UN shall be held accountable for this threat to peace and security in Burma and the wider region. Ban Ki-moon must proactively engage with key international players like the UN Security Council, regional governments and bodies like ASEAN, to devise a comprehensive, unified strategy in the event that the SPDC does not meet the demands set out in the UNSC presidential statement of October 2007 calling for the release of all political prisoners. For example, this could include further actions such as a UN arms embargo or targeted financial sanctions.
- According to the military government, the 2010 elections are the 5th step in their ‘roadmap to democracy.’ Do you agree? The regime has called for elections in 2010 based on its 2008 ‘Constitution’. The constitution is neither transparent nor democratic. Fundamental flaws in the constitution include a guaranteed number of parliamentary seats for the junta (25%); veto powers for the military’s commanders-in-chief and offers immunity to the military for crimes against humanity such as extra-judicial killings. This constitution was forged in a non-transparent and non-inclusive manner as it was unilaterally written, excluding democratic forces in the drafting process. It does not offer protection or promotion of human rights to its people, which contradict elements expressed in the ASEAN Charter. The 2010 elections must not be endorsed by any government, or international or regional body. The release of all political prisoners and an inclusive constitutional review process are the essential first steps towards national reconciliation. If this doesn’t happen, then military rule will effectively be entrenched in Burma.
- ASEAN currently takes a position of ‘constructive engagement’, and the ASEAN Charter is based on a principle of ‘non-interference’. What are you calling on ASEAN to do? The situation in Burma is a threat to regional peace and security, which ASEAN leaders have yet to fully accept. The ASEAN charter has key principles of good governance and human rights, which the military regime in Burma is violating. As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says, “Those who claim that they will not interfere in the internal affairs of Burma do not hesitate to be involved economically in Burma. As long as they are involved economically, how can they say that they are not interfering in the internal affairs of our country? If they are prepared to engage economically with our country, then they must also be prepared to do what they can to help us resolve our political problems.” ASEAN must follow up on its call for the release of all of Burma’s political prisoners in its communiqué of 21 July 2008, by invoking clause 10 of the ASEAN Charter, ‘the serious breach of principle’ clause. They must hold Burma to account as a member state of ASEAN for its violation of the key principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- China and India have significant economic interests in Burma. How can you convince them to take action on the political prisoner issue? For the protection of their long-term investments, a stable and democratic Burma is in the best economic and political interests of both countries. The release of all political prisoners is key to a stable and democratic Burma.
- Isn’t the conflict in Eastern Burma more pressing than the political prisoner issue? Both issues are equally important. Ethnic nationalities have long been suffering from systematic human rights violations carried out by the successive military regimes and their actors. Without solving both of these problems, there can be no peace and stability in Burma.
- What can ordinary people do? Sign the petition above, and ask your friends and family to sign.
- In the short term, what can be done to improve the situation for political prisoners? The prison authorities must provide adequate, timely medical care for all political prisoners. All political prisoners must be transferred to the prison closest to their families. The military regime must allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to fulfil its impartial and independent mandate, so that it can visit political prisoners without restrictions.
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Some Political Prisoners Profiles:
88 Generation Students
- Htay Kywe
- Ko Ko Gyi
- Htay Win Aung aka Pyone Cho
- Thet Thet Aung and Chit Ko Lin
Htay Kywe is a natural leader, charismatic and calm. As a 20 year-old student, he was involved in the student protests from the very beginning in 1988. He was detained between March and July that year, together with his brother Win Kywe, also a student leader. He was a pioneer of the nationwide pro-democracy uprising, helping to co-ordinate the general strike on 8 August 1988. He and some friends gave an important interview to BBC journalist Christopher Gunness, calling for the general strike. The interview was broadcast on the evening of 6 August 1988 and again the next day. Following the military coup in September 1988, Htay Kywe met with General Khin Nyunt as part of a student delegation seeking national reconciliation. After the 1990 elections, he campaigned hard to get the results recognized. He was arrested again in 1991 and spent more than 13 years in prison. His friends in prison remember his generosity. His family would deliver huge food parcels to him, enough to last until their next visit two weeks later. But Htay Kywe would share the food with all the other political prisoners, so that a few hours later it was all gone. He is also very creative, a talented musician and poet. The political prisoners would arrange to meet in secret to recite poetry, accompanied by Htay Kywe on guitar. He would often step in to resolve disputes and was greatly respected by prisoners and guards alike. After his release in 2004, he resumed his political work and co-founded the 88 Generation Students Group in September 2005. Together with his friends from the group, he led the protest march against the sharp rise in fuel and commodity prices on August 19 2007. He managed to evade arrest when most of his friends were caught a few days later, but was arrested in October 2007 when he came out of hiding to visit his mother, who was ill with cancer. She died a month later but Htay Kywe was not allowed to attend her funeral. His close friend Htay Aung led the funeral on his behalf. He said, “Htay Kywe is like my brother. Everyone knows him for his kind heart and big smile. He used to visit my family a lot, and always offered help and support.” Htay Kywe was recently sentenced to more than 65 years in prison.
KO KO GYI
Ko Ko Gyi is known as a gifted strategist, and clear thinker. He is second-in-command to Min Ko Naing in the 88 Generation Students group. In 1988, Ko Ko Gyi was a few months away from his graduation as a final year student of International Relations at the University of Rangoon when popular protests began in March. Two students were shot dead by riot police on 13 March. Many students from all over the country attended peaceful rallies on their campuses to protest against the brutal crackdown. Together with his friends, Ko Ko Gyi led the peaceful rally on his campus on 15 March. The next day he and many other students were brutally beaten by police as they tried to march to the Rangoon Institute of Technology. Ko Ko Gyi was also closely involved in the popular uprising on 8 August that year. He was first detained in April 1989 for about 6 weeks, then again in December 1991. He was eventually released in March 2005, after spending more than 13 years in prison. He established the 88 Generation Students group with Min Ko Naing and other friends in September that year. Aung Kyaw Oo, a former political prisoner and colleague of Ko Ko Gyi, stayed with him for several months after he himself was released from prison in July that year. He remembers Ko Ko Gyi as honorable and brave. One day Ko Ko Gyi was accompanying two women activists back to their homes by bicycle. They were followed by an intelligence agent on motorbike. Ko Ko Gyi asked him to stop following them, but when he persisted, he threatened him with an umbrella he was carrying. The intelligence agent fled on his motorbike. Ko Ko Gyi was recently sentenced to 65 years and 6 months.
Htay Win Aung aka Pyone Cho
Pyone Cho has already been to prison several times for his pro-democracy work. But despite having spent more than 14 years in prison, Pyone Cho is a funny guy. While he was in prison he was affectionately known as ‘joker’, as he was always teasing his friends and making them laugh. Although he likes to make his friends laugh, he is also a quiet and calm person who prefers to stay in the background. He has special responsibility for human rights as a leader of the 88 Generation Students group. Pyone Cho was released in 2004 and got straight back to his work, even though he had already given up many years of his life for the struggle for democracy. Together with Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe, he helped form the 88 Generation Students group in September 2005. A year later he and his friends were arrested again, this time for the ‘White Sunday’ campaign. Every Sunday they organized at least 100 people to wear white clothes (like the prisoner uniform) and visited the families of political prisoners, to support them and encourage them to stay strong. While he was in detention, his brother Thet Win Aung – also a political prisoner – died in prison. Sadly Pyone Cho was not allowed to go to his funeral. He was released again in January 2007 and got married in April that year. He invited 22 of his friends to go with him on his honeymoon, as he knew that few of them would get another chance to go to the beach. Aung Kyaw Oo, who spent 8 years in prison with Pyone Cho, said, “Ko Pyone Cho is a very kind and generous man. It was good to have him in prison with me because he is so funny.” Pyone Cho was arrested again on 22 August 2007 and was recently sentenced to more than 65 years in prison.
THET THET AUNG and her husband CHIT KO LIN
Thet Thet Aung and Chit Ko Lin got married in 1998. They are a fun-loving, sharply-dressed couple who enjoy socializing with their friends. Thet Thet Aung also loves spending time with her girlfriends, and values them very highly. Her friends remember that she is always smiling and laughing, and she likes to tell funny stories. Chit Ko Lin is outgoing, and a real family man. When he and his brothers– also activists – were all together, they used to enjoy drinking beer and playing cards. Thet Thet Aung and Chit Ko Lin have three sons, aged 9, 7 and 2. Thet Thet Aung takes real joy in being a mother and loves to buy little gifts for her children. The couple are both members of the 88 Generation Students Group, and were involved in the anti-commodity price rise demonstrations in August 2007. Many of their friends were arrested on 21 August, but they managed to evade arrest then. Together with fellow women activists Mie Mie and Nilar Thein, Thet Thet Aung played an active role in the demonstration the following day. Chit Ko Lin was caught on 8 October, but Thet Thet Aung managed to escape and went into hiding. The security forces took both of their mothers into custody two days later. Thet Thet Aung’s home and those of other family members were searched. From her hiding place, Thet Thet Aung spoke to the media. She said, “They arrested my mother and my husband’s mother because I escaped. It’s like taking hostages.” They were later released, but Thet Thet Aung was finally arrested on 19 October. Thet Thet Aung was recently sentenced to 65 years in prison, whilst her husband was given an 11-year sentence. They have been transferred to different prisons, both about 400 miles away from their children and family in Rangoon.
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POLITICAL PRISONERS - UNFAIR
TRIALS AND SENTENCING
In November 2008, 61 political prisoners
stood trial in Burma and received sentences ranging from 2
to 65 years. The trials were held behind closed doors and
family members were not permitted to attend the hearings.
Those sentenced include members of the 88 Generation Students,
National League for Democracy, Human Rights Defenders and
Promoters Group, labour activists, six Buddhist Monks, a blogger
and a poet.
Among those sentenced were 14 members
of the 88 Generation students, detained for their involvement
in the August/September 2007 protests. The nine male and seven
female activists, including Nilar Thein and her husband Kyaw
Minn Yu, were sentenced to 65 years each at the infamous Insein
Prison’s Special Court
The sentences are extremely lengthy and
inhumane and it would appear that the military government
are attempting to crush any dissent in the lead up to their
sham elections which are scheduled to take place in 2010.
This action by the generals’ regime is in open defiance
of the UN Security Council, who in October 2008 called for the
release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, now
numbering over 2100. It is clear that the lack of positive
action by EU and other states to bring the regime to heel
emboldens them further.
Burma: Free Activists Sentenced by Unfair
Courts Draconian Laws Invoked Against September 2007 Protestors
(New York, November 11, 2008) –
Burma’s military government should immediately exonerate
and free about 70 activists who are being tried by unfair
courts for their peaceful participation in the protests in
September 2007, Human Rights Watch said today. A court inside
Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison today sentenced 14
of them to 65-year prison terms.
In the past two weeks the Burmese government has stepped up
legal proceedings against dissidents from the opposition National
League for Democracy (NLD) and the “’88 Generation
Students.” More than 70 political activists, monks,
nuns, journalists, and labor activists who participated in
the August and September 2007 demonstrations are being tried
or have been summarily convicted in secret trials in prisons
and closed court hearings.
“It’s no secret that Burma’s military rulers
show no respect for law, but these last few weeks show a more
concentrated crackdown on dissent clearly aimed at intimidating
the population,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director
at Human Rights Watch. “These peaceful activists should
not be on trial in the first place, let alone thrown in prison
for years after unfair trials.”
Family members often have not been permitted to attend the
current trials. In some cases legal representation has been
denied, and four lawyers for political activists have been
sentenced to prison time for contempt when they tried to withdraw
their representation at their clients’ request or protested
Human Rights Watch said that the increased efforts to prosecute
political activists confirm that Burma’s rulers are
undermining basic freedoms more strongly than ever as they
prepare for multi-party elections in 2010. Members of opposition
parties and political activists have been sentenced under
archaic laws that criminalize free expression, peaceful demonstration,
forming organizations, and holding foreign currency without
“Burma’s leaders are clearing the decks of political
activists before they announce the next round of sham political
reforms,” Pearson said. “Prosecuting lawyers who
defend activists shows that the generals don’t want
to leave anything at these trials to chance.”
At least three reporters have also been convicted in the current
round of trials, including a prominent blogger, Nay Phone
Latt, who was sentenced on November 10, 2008, to 20 years
in prison for his reporting during the September 2007 demonstrations,
and two journalists reporting on a corruption case, who received
three months each.
Human Rights Watch urged countries in the region, particularly
China, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,
to press the Burmese government to drop charges or exonerate
political activists, lawyers, and others detained for exercising
their internationally protected rights to freedom of expression,
association, and peaceful assembly.
“The arrests of Nay Phone Latt and two other journalists
is a clear attempt to intimidate Burma’s independent
media from reporting on these trials,” said Pearson.
“Countries able to influence the Burmese junta should
not stand by and let this happen.”
After the major demonstrations in September
2007, the Burmese military government arrested hundreds of
political activists and protesters (http://hrw.org/reports/2007/burma1207/
<http://hrw.org/reports/2007/burma1207/> ). According
to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political
Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB), more than 2,100 political activists
are now in prison in Burma, more than double the number of
political prisoners before the September 2007 protests.
Trials of activists and lawyers since late October
· On October 23, the North Okkalapa Court sentenced
seven Buddhist monks and seven nuns to four years of hard
labor for “injuring or defiling a place of worship”
(section 295 of the Penal Code) and “insulting ... either
spoken or written ... another religion” (295(A)). They
were arrested at two schools in Rangoon in September 2007,
and include a 65-year-old abbot, U Yevada, and an 80-year-old
nun, Daw Ponnami. Family members were not permitted to attend
their trials, and their lawyers were often barred from attending
· On October 24, six members of the National League
for Democracy (NLD) in Mandalay – Daw Win Mya Mya, Tin
Ko Ko, U Than Lwin, U Kan Tun, Win Shwe, and Min Thu –
were sentenced on charges of “intent to cause rioting”
(section 153) and “statements conducting to public mischief
... which is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public”
(section 505(B)), to prison terms ranging from two to 13 years
for their involvement in demonstrations in September 2007.
· In late October, 11 members of the NLD youth wing
from Hlaing Thar Yar township in Rangoon went on trial in
the local public court, charged with instigating public unrest.
They were arrested in 2007 and again in September 2008 for
staging peaceful protests. Their lawyers were arrested on
October 30 for protesting unfair legal proceedings (see below).
· On October 29, nine members of the ’88 Generation
Students group – Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Hla Myo Naung,
Htay Kywe, Mya Aye, Nyan Lin, Phone Cho, Aung Thu, and Aung
Naing – went on trial in Insein prison. They were among
34 activists arrested in August 2007. The nine are charged
with a total of 22 offenses including unlawful association,
criticizing the National Convention constitutional process
(Law 5/96 of 1996), engaging in anti-government propaganda,
and instigating public unrest, which could garner each activist
an estimated 150 years in prison.
· The nine defendants protested against the trial being
conducted at Insein in secret. As a result, on the same day,
all nine were charged with contempt of court and sentenced
to six months in jail. They were subsequently transferred
to a remote prison in Maubin in Irrawaddy Division, where
family members and supporters cannot visit them, to continue
the trials. On October 30, four lawyers representing NLD defendants
were charged with contempt of court. Nyi Nyi Htwe and Saw
Kyaw Kyaw Min were sentenced to six months in prison for contempt
of court under section 228 of the Penal Code for trying to
call a senior government official as a witness in a case against
two people who had demonstrated against the military government.
U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein were sentenced to four
months each under section 3 of the Contempt of Court Act,
after their clients asked them to withdraw counsel in protest
against restrictive measures during trial, including lacking
access to an important witness and not permitting family members
of the accused to attend proceedings. Three of the lawyers
are already in custody and one is in hiding.
· On November 2, five labor activists – Thu Rein
Aung, Kyaw Min, Kyaw Kyaw, Wai Lin, and Nyi Zaw – were
transferred from Rangoon to prisons in Western and Northern
Burma to begin closed trials related to their activities during
the September 2007 demonstrations.
· On November 3, eight activists from newly formed
local groups “The Justice” and “The Best
Manure” went on trial, charged with offenses related
to illegally forming organizations. They had been arrested
in September 2008.
· On November 5, five Buddhist monks arrested at Ngwe
Kyar Yan monastery during the September 2007 crackdown went
on trial at the South Okkalapa Court in Rangoon, charged with
“injuring or defiling a place of worship” (section
295) and “intent to cause fear or alarm in the public”
(section 505(B)). After staging a brief demonstration outside
the court by chanting prayers, the five were additionally
charged on November 5 with obstructing the course of justice
(section 353), for which they face an additional two-year
· On November 5, two journalists, Khin Maung Aye and
Tun Tun Thein from News Watch Journal, were arrested over
articles in their July publication exposing local corruption
and summarily sentenced to three months in prison.
· On November 10, the blogger Nay Phone Latt was sentenced
to 20 years in prison for his web postings and reporting of
activities during the September 2007 demonstrations. He was
arrested in January 2008.
· On November 11, 14 activists arrested during the
August 2007 demonstrations were sentenced by a tribunal inside
Insein prison to prison sentences of 65 years each for offenses
such as holding foreign currency without permission and lacking
permits for various types of ordinary equipment. In addition,
a prominent labor activist, Ma Su Su Nway, was sentenced to
12-and-a-half years in prison for her peaceful protests in
August and November 2007. She was charged with treason (section
124) and intent to cause fear or harm to the public (section
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Burma, please visit:
· September 2008 news release, “Five Activists
Win Human Rights Watch Awards”:
· May 2008 report, “Vote to Nowhere: The May
2008 Constitutional Referendum in Burma”:
· December 2007 report, “Crackdown:
Repression of the 2007 Popular Protests in Burma”:
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19 November 2008
Unlawful Convictions of Burmese Political
Prisoners are Crimes Against Humanity -
U.N. Security Council Should Refer Burma to the International
Certain judges in Burma, acting under the orders of Chief
Justice U Aung Toe and Senior General Than Shwe, are themselves
criminally liable as co-conspirators to crimes against humanity
for their acts in "trying" and "convicting"
60 political activists last week. "These acts are the
latest from the junta which uses the judiciary as one of its
key weapons to commit grave crimes," says Global Justice
Center President Janet Benshoof. Judges including those listed
below are criminally culpable and must be referred to the
International Criminal Court.
· Chief Justice U Aung Toe
· U Thaung Nyunt, North District Court, Yangon Division
· Daw Soe Nyan, U Tin Htut, U Kyaw Swe, and U Sein
Hla, Western District Court, Yangon Division
· Daw Aye Myaing, Hlaing Tha Yar Township Court, Yangon
· Daw Than Than, Tamwe Township Court, Yangon Division
· Daw Nyunt Nyunt Win, Kyauktadar Court, Yangon Division
· Daw Mya Mya Swe, North Dagon Court, Yangon Division
· Daw Thiri Tin, Ahlon township Court, Yangon Division
On November 11th approximately forty pro-democracy dissidents
received prison sentences of up to 65 years. On November 13th
twenty more activists were sentenced to terms ranging from
4 1/2 to 9 1/2 years. The convicted include members of the
'88 Generation Students, labor rights activist Su Su Nway,
musician Win Maw, HIV/AIDS activist Than Naing, blogger Nay
Phone Latt, and members of Daw Aung San Sui Kyi's party, the
National League for Democracy. Even the defendants' lawyers
were not immune from the regime's revenge; in October defense
lawyers Nyi Nyi Htwe, Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein were
sentenced to between four and six months imprisonment for
submitting a complaint about the unfair trial conditions of
eleven NLD activists.
Judges did not allow the defendants to question prosecution
witnesses, many defendants did not have legal representation
and those that did were not permitted to meet with their lawyers
in private. Burma Lawyers' Council General Secretary U Aung
Htoo stated, "Rule of law in Burma cannot even be dreamt
of when the judiciary has become an instrument of political
oppression, exercised by the SPDC military junta."
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma,
Tomàs Ojea Quintana, said this past week in reference
to these convictions, "There is no independent and impartial
judiciary system [in Burma]." However, the judges actions
go much further; these prison sentences are crimes under the
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including
violations of Article 7(1)(e) "Imprisonment or other
severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental
rules of international law" and 7(1)(h) "Persecution
against any identifiable group or collectivity on political,
racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender... or other grounds".
GJC President Benshoof noted that top judges in Hitler's criminal
regime were convicted as co-conspirators of crimes against
humanity and, more recently, in the Dujail1 decision, the
Iraqi High Tribunal found Judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar jointly
criminally liable for crimes against humanity committed with
Saddam Hussein because he used the façade of "judicial
authority and law" to "try" and then "execute"
civilians. Burma Lawyers' Council and Global Justice Center
urge the international community to expose the regime's criminal
partnership with members of the judiciary and to join the
call for a UN Security Council referral of all grave international
crimes in Burma to the International Criminal Court.
1.A1-Mahkama al-jina'iya al-'Iraqiya al-Uliya [The Iraqi High
Criminal Court], al-Dujail Opinion, Unofficial English Translation,
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FEAR OF TORTURE FOR NILAR THEIN
Nilar Thein, the anti-government activist
leader, was arrested on 10 September in Burma. Prior to her
arrest, she had been in hiding for more than a year after
leading some of the initial anti-government protests in the
country in August 2007. She was among the 61 political prisoners
recently sentenced in various courts throughout Burma. Nilar
Thein received a 65 year prison term at Insein Prison Special
Court. She has since been transferred to Thayet Prison, Magwe
Division where she is at serious risk of torture and other
Nilar Thein was arrested on her way to
mother of Ant Bwe Kyaw, another detained
activist, in a suburb of north eastern Yangon. Ant
Bwe Kyaw and Kyaw Min Yu, Nilar Thein’s
husband (also known as Ko Jimmy), were among
13 anti-government activist leaders from the '88
Generation Students Group' who were arrested
on 22 August 2007. The '88 Generation Students
Group' is made up of anti-government activists
who took part in the 1988 pro-democracy
uprising against the then 26 years of military
The day after the 13 anti-government
leaders of the '88 Generation Students Group'
were arrested, Nilar Thein led around 500
people in a demonstration in Yangon to demand
the release of fellow activists and to continue the
protest against the sudden increase in fuel prices
that had been imposed by the state on 15
August 2007. When authorities began a hunt for
the leaders of the protests, Nilar Thein went into
While in hiding, Nilar Thein continued
to the international community to take action in
resolving the grave human rights situation and
the abuses that women suffer under the military
regime in Burma. Nilar Thein has been
imprisoned twice before for her pro-democracy
activities. She was detained for two months in
1991. In December 1996 she was arrested for
participating in the student demonstrations in
Yangon that year. She was sentenced to 10 years’
imprisonment and was released in 2005.
BAI recommends sending an urgent action
Senior General Than Shwe,
State Peace and Development Council,
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw,
Union of Myanmar.
• expressing concern that Nilar
• calling on the authorities to treat Nilar Thein
humanely, and not subject her to torture or
• urging the authorities to release Nilar Thein
immediately and unconditionally along with
all detainees arrested for taking part in
peaceful protests of August/September
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INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE
EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER SENTENCING OF MYANMAR LABOUR ACTIVIST
GENEVA (ILO News) The International Labour
Office (ILO) is concerned and disappointed
at the recent sentencing to two years hard labour of U Thet
Way, a Burmese (Myanmar) labour activist.
The ILO Governing Body has been watching
this case with interest and in March of this year
expressed the expectation that he would retain his freedom.
This expectation was reconfirmed
by the 97th Session of the International Labour Conference
in June of this year. The case has
been the subject of direct discussion with the Government
at a senior level.
U Thet Way has facilitated the lodging
of complaints on behalf of victims of forced labour
including underage recruitment to the army, many of which
have been successfully resolved.
This is fully in line with the Supplementary Understanding
in force between the ILO and the
Government of Myanmar.
This conviction raises the question of
honouring the Supplementary Understanding between
the Government of Myanmar and the ILO. The Supplementary Understanding
protection from prosecution and retaliation for persons making
or supporting complaints of
forced labour including underage recruitment. The charge on
which he was sentenced may
formally be unrelated to his ILO-related activities; two further
charges with direct links to the
ILO were withdrawn before final sentencing. The sentence given
is heavy and the maximum
permissible under the law. The ILO cannot but consider that
the sentence imposed is related
to U Thet Way's role in complaining on forced labour practices.
The ILO requests the Government of Myanmar
to urgently review the sentence and immediately
release U Thet Way.
ILO Press Release – Reference:
You can also TAKE
ACTION online at the following links:
Visit the Assistance Association for
Political Prisoners (Burma)
website at the following link and sign the online petition
release of political prisoners:
Visit the Frontline Defenders website
for more information and to take action at the following link:
For further information on
political prisoners please see the following reports:
Eight Seconds of Silence:
The Death of Democracy Activists Behind Bars (2006) AAPPB
The Darkness We See: Torture in Burma's Interrogation Centres
and Prisons (2005) AAPPB