Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Groups call for independent prisoner review mechanism

More than 20 international and regional organisations are calling for the establishment of an independent prisoner review mechanism.

Fortify Rights, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB) and 20 other organisations issued a statement yesterday on the occasion of the third anniversary of the death of U Win Tin, a journalist who famously pledged to wear a blue shirt, which is the same color shirt he had to wear in prison, until all political prisoners in the country were released.

The statement asked for the immediate release of all individuals detained or imprisoned on fabricated, politically motivated charges according to their statement.

“Having political prisoners in the country is a disadvantage to the reputation of the government and releasing them will also help in the national reconciliation,” Ko Bo Kyi from the AAPPB told The Myanmar Times.

The organisations pointed out that the establishment of this mechanism would be “an important step” in handling the decades-long problem of political imprisonment in Myanmar.

In 2013, former President Thein Sein established the Committee for Scrutinising the Remaining Prisoners of Conscience for the political prisoners serving their terms in prisons.

However, the organisations said that the committee had “serious shortcomings” and was “not even operational” by the end of 2014.

The former president announced the reconstitution of the Scrutinising Committee into the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee in 2015, but the organisations stated that “it appears that the committee never even met and no information has been made publicly available regarding its mandate, procedures or activities.”

The organisations insisted that the members of the mechanism should be selected based on their independencies and expertise in human rights and also that gender and ethnic representation should be included.

Ko Bo Kyi said that the reason for the failure of the previous committees is due to the lack of government commitment.

The new committee should include representatives from the government, Ministry of Home Affairs, lawyers, political parties and civil society organisations, he added.

“The reason the previous committee did not function well is because they didn’t work and this new committee can do a better job as long as they do the work,” he said.