Burma Campaign UK today called for the urgent reform of Burma’s Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee and to review the cases of Maran Gam and Zau La.
Zau La is a deputy leader and Maran Gam is a local development officer from the Mongkoe Defense Army (MDA). They were arrested in November 2000 by the military regime and they are now in prison serving life imprisonment.
On 12th November 2000, they were invited by a Burmese army officer for a meeting and they were arrested on their arrival. They were put on trial at Myingyan court in Mandalay region under drug trafficking charges.
There were no witnesses from either defendants or prosecutors during the trial. They both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Currently Zau La is in Myingyan prison and Maran Gam is in Obo prison. They are now in their 70s and Maran Gam is suffering from hypertension and has had a stroke.
“Families and members of the Kachin community believe that the arrest of Zau La and Maran Gam was politically motivated,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “There are probably thousands of cases like this in Burma and that is why we need a credible review committee to ensure that people are not kept in jail unfairly. A new independent political prisoners review committee needs to be established as soon as possible.”
Maran Gam and Zau La’s case highlights the need for a credible and independent Prisoners of Consciences Affairs Committee. If prisoners think their trials were unfair and they have been kept in prison unlawfully, they should be able to submit their cases to be reviewed by the committee.
The Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee formed by the previous military-backed government excludes key civil society organisations, including the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma, the main organisation which works on political prisoner issues.
Fundamental reforms to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee are needed if it is to start to address the decades-long problem of political prisoners in Burma. Amnesty International has also called for the establishment of such a review committee. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/3981/2016/en/
Ten key reforms should be made to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee.
A reformed Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee should:
- Review the cases of all those charged or deprived of their liberty simply for the peaceful exercise of their human rights, with a view to securing their release and having the charges against them dropped;
- Review all laws used to charge and detain political prisoners, and recommend to Parliament the repeal or amendment of all such laws to bring them in line with international human rights law and standards;
- Formulate and present recommendations to the relevant authorities aimed at ending the abuse of the criminal law to fabricate criminal charges against individuals for politically motivated reasons;
- Ensure that all conditions attached to the release of political prisoners are lifted;
- Provide support and assistance to former political prisoners and their families by ensuring that they have effective access to restitution, compensation, assistance in gaining access to education and employment opportunities and other forms of rehabilitation to enable them to resume a normal life.
- Share with the public its mandate, its terms of reference, and operational procedures, and publish regular activity reports;
- Be properly resourced, receive appropriate support and co-operation from government offices, and be given access to prisons, prisons’ records and the authority to question relevant state officials;
- Invite a sufficient number of additional members to join the Committee who are selected according to objective and relevant criteria, including their independence and expertise in human rights issues, so as to ensure that the Committee overall has adequate gender and ethnic representation, as well as expertise on gender issues and children’s rights. The Committee should be comprised of a wide range of stakeholders, including former political prisoners and their representatives;
- Ensure resources are provided to build the human rights capacity of Committee members and seek technical assistance and advice from external experts in this regard;