Today the military-backed government in Burma released around 50 political prisoners. Two of the released activists had been highlighted as part of Burma Campaign UK’s campaign, No Political Prisoner Left Behind, which highlights a political prisoner case every month. Myint Aye and Zaw Zaw Aung were released under a Presidential order.
Burma Campaign UK welcomed the release of the political prisoners but cautioned that the release process has been extremely slow and hundreds of political activists still remain in jail. These releases are also conditional and not full pardons.
On Sunday 18th November President Thein Sein issued a statement which referred to the building of a mechanism to review the remaining prisoners’ cases. Burma Campaign UK has been campaigning for a similar mechanism. However 4 key factors are needed to make this review mechanism credible.
1. To be credible the review board should be formed with the involvement of independent experts from the UN.
2. Thein Sein proposed the review process would be devised by the end of the year. Given the numbers of political prisoners, there should be a permanent mechanism to review cases. In addition, arrests continue and all the repressive laws under which political prisoners were jailed still remain in place.
3. The mechanism should be able to proactively investigate cases as well as be able to receive independent submissions from people or on behalf of people who believe they are in jail for political reasons.
4. There should also be a full pardon with compensation for released political prisoners.
“President Thein Sein should stop using political prisoner releases to gain positive publicity at key moments and start a credible review mechanism for remaining political prisoners’ cases,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Many families have been left in despair today because their family members still remain behind bars. No activists should be left behind in jail. ”