HRW Praise Government’s Release of Political Prisoners, but Warns, Constitution Needs Amending to Remove Jail Threat to Peaceful Political Activists

Human Rights Watch praised Burma’s newly elected government for quickly putting into action the release of the country’s political prisoners.

In a statement to the media Human Rights Watch said that “the new Burmese government, led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), has taken a major step in releasing approximately 200 political prisoners and detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. It has also pledged to release remaining political prisoners or have their politically motivated charges dropped by the end of April 2016.”

Human Rights Watch urged the government to start dismantling Burma’s draconian legislation.

“The NLD-led government should also use its absolute majorities in both houses of parliament to repeal or amend the many rights-abusing laws that have been used to prosecute dissidents and others during a half-century of mostly military rule.”

Brad Adam, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, while praising the government for its action, warned that “there are hundreds more [political prisoners] still in prison or facing charges. The NLD has correctly made releasing political prisoners a priority and should now follow through to ensure that all remaining activists are freed and that charges dropped against hundreds of others.”

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) said on its website on April 7, 2016 that “it holds records of 121 political prisoners (including political activists, land rights activists and farmers) currently incarcerated in Burma’s jails, and a further 414 political activists awaiting trial.”

The AAPP website highlighted that “activists staging protests are continually indicted under sections 18 and 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act and 505(b) of the Penal Code.”

Human Rights Watch urged the NLD-led government to start amending the legislation now used “by authorities to jail peaceful activists, such as various sections of the penal code; section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, under which many students were recently charged; the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act; and section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which has been used to detain activists such as Robert Khum Jarr Lee for alleged social media posts.”

Brad Adams pointed out in Human Rights Watch’s media statement that unless the 2008 Constitution was amended peaceful political activists would be always under threat of detainment.

“To break the decades-long cycle of politically motivated arrests of peaceful critics of the government and military, Burma’s new government should look systematically at laws long used to stifle basic freedoms… until the constitution is amended to put the police fully under civilian control and oversight, the threat of political arrests will remain.”

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