Myanmar’s Release of Political Prisoners a Step in Right Direction for Human Rights

Press Release
November 19, 2012

Myanmar’s Release of Political Prisoners a Step in Right Direction for Human Rights

Calls for Independent Monitoring of Detention Facilities and Investigation into Torture Reports

Contact: Carol Gregory, cgregory@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759

(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International USA welcomed news today that Myanmar released 50 political prisoners, including Amnesty International prisoners of conscience, U Myint Aye and Saw Kyaw Kywa Min, but said the authorities have "miles to go" to fulfill the promise of human rights protections in the country. In addition to the release of all political prisoners, the human rights organization is calling for independent monitoring of all detention facilities in Myanmar and an independent investigation into reports of torture and other ill treatment.

The prisoners were released today following President Obama's trip to Rangoon, Myanmar -- the first time a sitting U.S. President has visited the country.

"The Myanmar government cannot release a few political prisoners while the world is watching, and call it human rights reform," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "When President Obama returns on Washington, D.C. he must exert more pressure on Burma to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and without condition."

The prisoners released today include co-founder of the Human Rights Defender and Promoters Network, U Myint Aye, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for his peaceful political activities, and Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, a lawyer and human rights offender who was sentenced to six months imprisonment in August 2012.

"The release of these prisoners of conscience is a baby step in the right direction, but Burma has miles to go to right the wrongs of a repressive regime that has attempted to silence peaceful defenders of human rights," said Suzanne Nossel.

The Myanmar government announced on November 18 that it will hold inter-governmental consultations by December of this year to reconsider charges and punishment of prisoners still in jail. Amnesty has called on authorities for a comprehensive review mechanism to determine who remains in prison and why. Additionally, the human rights organization wants the United Nations and civil society representatives to be involved in the process to guarantee impartiality and credibility.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.