Myanmar political prisoners held in dog cells and denied water

News
November 4, 2011

Myanmar political prisoners held in dog cells and denied water

The Myanmar authorities must act immediately to end the ill-treatment of some15 political prisoners in Yangon’s Insein Prison, where they have been denied water and some reportedly held in “dog” cells, Amnesty International said today.

The prisoners started a hunger strike on 26 October in protest over being denied the reductions in their sentences which are allowed to criminal convicts. The following day, prison authorities began denying the hunger-strikers drinking water, putting them at risk of death from dehydration. This continued until at least 2 November.

Two of the prisoners were sent to hospital on Tuesday, while eight of the prisoners have been held in cells designed to hold dogs, local sources say.

“Depriving prisoners of drinking water as a punishment for participating in a hunger strike is deeply inhumane. What’s more, by treating the prisoners in this manner, the authorities in Myanmar are violating international law. They must immediately provide them with adequate drinking water and remove the eight from the dog cells,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia.

“They should also initiate an independent investigation into reports that some of the prisoners are being held in such cells, she said.

The hunger strikers have also been denied any visits, medicine, food or letters from their families.

The dog cells at Insein Prison are about 10 feet in length and seven feet wide, windowless and soundproof. There is generally no proper sanitation, no bed and no mats on the floor. 

In Myanmar, political prisoners are regularly charged under vaguely worded laws, mostly relating to security or public order concerns, which allow excessively broad interpretation by the authorities. 

Prison conditions in Myanmar fall far short of many international standards.  Food, water and medical care are insufficient; political prisoners are often held far away from their families; and many have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement.

While just over 300 political prisoners have been released this year, the majority of those detained in recent years remain behind bars.