Lt Gen Ko Ko,
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Nay Pyi Taw
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
I welcome the release of some 650 political prisoners in Myanmar between 17 May 2011 and 13 January 2012. However, we are concerned that many prisoners of conscience are still behind bars. Amnesty International defines prisoners of conscience as those who are detained solely for their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, colour, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation, or other status, who have not used or advocated violence or hatred. I am concerned that many prisoners of conscience remain imprisoned, including Aye Aung held in Kale prison, Khin Kyi aka Zin Min Aung held in Bago prison and Khun Kawrio held in Myingyan prison. They should be set free immediately and unconditionally.
Amnesty International regards political prisoners as individuals who have been imprisoned on account of their political activity, even if they committed or advocated violence. I am concerned that many political prisoners have been subjected to trials which fell far short of international fair trial standards.
As there are discrepancies in the numbers of political prisoners who are named in various lists, I call on the government to urgently initiate a mechanism to review the cases of prisoners in Myanmar in order to determine the true reason why they were arrested and imprisoned. Some officials and many civil society representatives in Myanmar have agreed that the government needs to initiate such a review.
To ensure public confidence in this review mechanism, it should be established with assistance from the United Nations and with appropriate civil society participation. This review process should go well beyond even the longest of the outstanding political prisoner lists and be carried out in every prison, including in all the ethnic minority areas.
Once the review mechanism confirms that a person is a political prisoner, they should be promptly charged with an internationally recognised criminal offence and tried in proceedings that fully comply with international fair trial standards, or released.