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Burma's prisoner review must include all those unfairly detained

The Burmese government’s decision to form a committee to review political prisoner cases is a step in the right direction but the review needs to have a much wider reach, Amnesty International has said.

The government yesterday announced it would proceed with setting up the committee, which will look into granting amnesties to political prisoners. According to an announcement made by the President’s Office yesterday, the review committee will be comprised of members of the government ministries, civil society organisations and political parties.

Many prisoners of conscience are still imprisoned in Burma, having been falsely charged or convicted of a serious offence, arbitrarily detained, or imprisoned solely for their peaceful political activities.

Activists, former political prisoners and some politicians in Burma, as well as some regional and international NGOs, including Amnesty, have been publicly pushing the Burmese authorities since late 2011 to set up a body that would take on the country’s vast record of unjust imprisonment.

Amnesty is calling for the review mechanism to identify all detainees and prisoners who were charged or convicted as a result of unfair trials and other proceedings that did not meet international human rights standards. This would include convictions that relied on confessions extracted under torture. Meanwhile, Amnesty is calling for the government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience, and to retry fairly any person found to have suffered an unfair trial.

Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Isabelle Arradon said:

“We are heartened by this very important first step towards establishing a review mechanism. However, it is imperative to have assurances that the mandate of this new committee will extend to all prisoners who have been unfairly detained, not only political prisoners.

“We are waiting for clear commitments that the commission will be independent, impartial, properly resourced, and their decisions based on international human rights standards.”

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