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Good News Stories - May 2021

Myanmar
Paing Phyo Min a member of a poetry troupe in Myanmar was released from prison 17 April 2021. Paing a member of The Peacock Generation are a group of young people known for performing  Thangyat, a popular Myanmar traditional art form which fuses poetry, comedy and music, it uses humour and satire to comment on social issues.

Paing was sentenced to 6 years in prison following his arrest in April 2019 for the peaceful satirical performances, criticising the authorities, including the military. The charges against him included “incitement”, that is, encouraging military officers to abandon their duties; and “online defamation” for sharing photographs and videos of their performances online. In these performances, they dressed as soldiers, making fun of the military, saying it couldn’t take criticism, was desperate to hang on to power, and was bankrupting the country while its generals accumulated wealth. Paing said I feel like Thangyat is a symbol of Myanmar democracy. We can express what we want and convey what the public want through this art form … We have been performing Thangyat every year since 2013, … We have been directly communicating with the public, expressing... what is wrong in our society... including criticisms of the government. But in 2019, the military targeted us. They are undermining Myanmar’s democratic transition.  Source.

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Malawi
The Supreme Court of Appeal in Malawi has ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said: We welcome the judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal declaring the death penalty unconstitutional in Malawi. This is a vital victory against the death penalty and strengthens the right to life in the country. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and it has no place in this world. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and an assault on human rights. It’s time the death penalty was consigned to history. With partners around the world, Amnesty International will continue its global campaign against the death penalty until it is abolished completely everywhere.

Though no executions have been carried out in Malawi recently, last year a court in the town of Kasungu sentenced two people to death, while 27 people were known to be on death row at the end of the year. As Amnesty’s recent global survey of capital punishment shows, across sub-Saharan Africa use of the death penalty has recently declined significantly, with recorded executions falling by 36% and recorded death sentences dropping by 6%.  Source.
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Russia
Amnesty International has restored Alexei Navalny’s prisoner of conscience status. Amnesty announced on 24 February that it would stop referring to Russia’s most prominent opposition activist as a prisoner of conscience after concerns were raised that previous comments he made could amount to incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. But in a new statement on Friday April 7th, Amnesty apologised for no longer describing Mr Navalny as a "prisoner of conscience" and said their decision had been used to "further violate Navalny's rights" in Russia. Amnesty said it would review overall use of the term and as an interim step would no longer automatically exclude someone because of past behaviour.

Amnesty said in a statement "We recognise that an individual's opinions and behaviour may evolve over time. It is part of Amnesty's mission to encourage people to positively embrace a human rights vision and to not suggest that they are forever trapped by their past conduct. Some of Navalny's previous statements are reprehensible and we do not condone them in the slightest. By confirming Navalny's status as prisoner of conscience, we are not endorsing his political programme, but are highlighting the urgent need for his rights, including access to independent medical care, to be recognised and acted upon by the Russian authorities."  Read Amnesty's statement in full here.

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