Burma (Burma): New report condemns pre-meditated attacks on democracy activists

The organisation has strongly condemned the crackdown on pro-democracy supporters since the violent attack of 30 May, which it believes was pre-meditated.

To coincide with the publication of the report, Amnesty International members in Japan handed a petition of tens of thousands of signatures from all over the world to the Burmese embassy in Tokyo, echoing the report's call for the immediate release of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD vice-chair, 75-year-old U Tin Oo, plus all those arrested for peacefully expressing their views.

The human rights organisation has called for a full and impartial investigation into the 30 May attack, and for the urgent reform of the criminal justice system which currently sees arbitrary arrests, torture, the detention of more then 1,300 political prisoners and appalling prison conditions as routine. British colonial era legislation is used to enable some of these abuses. The report makes detailed recommendations to the government on how to reform the justice system.

Amnesty International researcher on Burma, Donna Guest, said:

'We are gravely concerned about the severe deterioration of the human rights situation in Burma since 30 May. The Burmese government must clarify immediately the whereabouts of those who are either missing or in detention since the attack, and address a culture which allows human rights abuses to be committed with complete impunity.'

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the government of Japan, the European Union (EU), the USA and the UN Secretary General have all condemned the attacks and arrests. The UK government recently made the unusual move of asking British holiday companies to 'reconsider' their operations in the country following the recent crackdown.

Donna Guest continued:

'Now more than ever the Burmese people need the support of the international community. Sustained and concerted efforts on the part of the international community should continue until these problems are solved. The people of Burma must not be forgotten.'

The events of 30 May

After evaluating information from a variety of sources, including State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) public statements, Amnesty International believes that the 30 May attack was pre-meditated.

On the evening of 30 May, some 200 NLD members, including Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, were attacked by a crowd of hundreds while touring Upper Burma (with the permission of the authorities). The attackers were reportedly members of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), an organisation established, run and supported by the SPDC.

An SPDC press conference reported that four people were killed and 50 injured; unofficial reports indicate that the number of those beaten to death was much higher.

There is serious concern that many of those arrested on 30 May sustained serious head injuries when they were beaten by USDA members with iron bars and sticks, and that they are now not receiving proper medical care.

Over 1,300 political prisoners remain in Burma's prison system, including those arrested on 30 May. Many were sentenced after trials falling far short of international fair trial standards by laws which effectively criminalize the right to freedom of expression.

In the interest of finding a solution to the human rights crisis in Burma, Amnesty International expresses full support for the work of Ambassador Razali Ismail, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, and Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma.

The organisation urges the SPDC to cooperate fully with them in the fulfilment of their mandates, which include visits to Burma, and to grant them unimpeded access to anyone they request to meet while visiting the country. For the full text of the report, please go to: www.web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa160192003

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