The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, haswelcomed the latest presidential amnesty resulting in the release of a number of prisoners of conscience, and renewed his call for the immediate freedom of all prisoners of conscience without conditions.
“I am encouraged by the continuing steps taken by the Government of Myanmar to release remaining prisoners of conscience. I believe that this issue should remain at the forefront of Myanmar's reforms until all those left in detention have been freed,” Ojea Quintana said in a press statement on Friday.
“Bold steps are needed now to overcome the legacy of the past and to ensure that no prisoners of conscience are left behind,” he said. “This requires a concerted effort by the Government to engage with relevant stakeholders, such as political and civil society organizations, to clarify exactly how many prisoners are left and should include the establishment of a review mechanism which has access to prisons.”
Amongst those released was Khaymar Sara, a Buddhist monk detained since the September 2007 demonstrations, whom the Special Rapporteur had visited in Insein Prison during his previous country visit last August.
The human rights expert, however, expressed concerns that conditions may again be attached to this latest release of prisoners, such as the imposition of the remaining sentence if a crime were committed in the future. He reiterated that the release of prisoners of conscience must be without any conditions.
The Special Rapporteur also urged the government to ensure the reintegration of released prisoners of conscience into society, stressing that “adequate medical and psyco-social services should be provided to those released, particularly those who suffered ill-treatment or were subject to prolonged periods of solitary confinement.”
“The government should also take further positive steps, such as providing reparations, the removal of restrictions on applications for passports, and the removal of obstacles to continuing education or regaining professional licenses such as those required in the medical and legal professions,” he said.
The UN Special Rapporteur renewed his call on the government to release all remaining prisoners of conscience without delay as a fundamental part of the process of democratic transition and national reconciliation.
That includes the release of people such as Myint Aye, the director of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Organization, and 36-year-old Aung Naing, who has spent the past 16 years of his life in prison and was also visited by the Special Rapporteur in Insein Prison during his previous country visit.
“Persons such as Myint Aye and Aung Naing may have been convicted of crimes under Myanmar's penal code, yet I believe that the reason for many convictions such as these was because of their opposition to the previous government at the time or because they had no opportunity to defend themselves in a fair trial,” Quintana said.
“These people must not be forgotten and left languishing in prison,” he said.