Burma: Amnesty Finds Human Rights Deteriorating, Calls for Action Not Words

During the 17-day visit Amnesty International met with government officials and interviewed 35 political prisoners but was denied access to National League for Democracy (NLD) leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently held under de facto house arrest.

The human rights organisation has documented the arrest of scores of people for non-violent political activities since the violent attack on the NLD on 30 May this year which saw the beginning of an ongoing crackdown on all opposition. Many of those arrested have now been sentenced to long prison terms.

Amnesty International said: 'Our visit has strongly reinforced our concerns about political imprisonment, arbitrary arrests, prolonged incommunicado detention and unfair trials.'

In August of this year, the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council, Burma's military government) declared that it would reconvene the National Convention in order to draft a constitution. Last week in Bangkok, the Burmese foreign minister, U Win Aung, reportedly pledged that the transition process would be conducted in an 'all-inclusive manner' involving all groups.

Amnesty International continued: 'The military government keeps making noises about its commitment to 'change' and 'transition'. The most concrete demonstration of any commitment to change would be the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience.

'The government told us to be patient, and that change may come soon. But these assurances ring hollow in the face of continuing repression. We will judge progress on human rights in Burma by concrete improvements on the ground. Fine words, and vague promises for the future without any timetable for change carry little weight.'

Amnesty International urges the Burmese authorities to:

  • release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally; they include members of parliament elect, journalists, doctors, lawyers, teachers and young activists. Selective releases of a few high profile individuals will not suffice.
  • stop the use of repressive legislation to criminalize freedom of expression and peaceful association; the government is still using colonial-era legislation to sentence people for staging solitary protests and for discussing social and economic issues
  • end the use of administrative detention provisions to hold prisoners of conscience without trial and to prolong the incarceration of political prisoners who have completed their sentences; existing provisions allow for up to five years detention without charge, trial or recourse to appeal in the courts
  • address the black hole of incommunicado detention without charge or trial carried out by military intelligence personnel and other members of the security forces.

A full public statement on the Amnesty International mission findings is available from the press office.

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