Fri 28 Sep 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Burma continues to use arbitrary arrest as a tool to hold members of the democracy and human rights movement behind bars often without formal charges, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma said in a statement on Thursday.
An “alarming increase” in the number of arbitrary arrests suggests that Burma has made no significant progress towards protecting and promoting the fundamental civil and political liberties of the people, the statement said.
Since January 2012, it said: “We have documented at least 200 politically motivated arrests without formal charges in this eight month time period. Of these arrests, less than 60 have resulted in formal court proceedings. Many leave detention unsure whether they will face trial or not. It is clear that politically motivated arrests remains a favored tactic for suppressing critical voices of democracy and human rights.”
“This is roughly half the number of political prisoners released in the same period and a major cause of concern,” it said.
The AAPP said many of those who speak out continue to be intimidated and treated in a degrading manner consistent with extreme tactics used when Burma was under direct military rule.
Common means of intimidation, which include sexual violence and beatings, are never investigated by the police or judiciary, it said.
The arrest rates correlated to the highs and lulls in Burma’s popular resistance movement, it said. For example, arrest rates are highest in the months of May, July, and September, which coincided with the protests against power cuts, commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the military crackdown on student demonstrations and demonstrations at a copper mine and a clothing factory.
It said the government continues to be selective about what type of freedom of expression is allowed and what type is prohibited.
The most frequent reason for arbitrary arrest is protesting, it said. Throughout the year the authorities have conducted sweeping arrests of people demonstrating peacefully. Suspected leaders of a demonstration are often threatened and intimidated in an attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their dissident activities. In some cases, protestors are not released from detention until they sign a form stating they will never get involved in politics again, said the AAPP.
Also of concern is the new public demonstration bill, it said, which offers no protection to protestors and only increases vulnerability to arrest. Protestors risk one year imprisonment for demonstrating without a permit, which is difficult to obtain, or six months imprisonment for violating the strict regulations of the protest bill, which include giving speeches that contain false information or chanting slogans that were not pre-approved.
These restrictions make the protest bill incompatible with widely accepted human rights standards, particularly freedom of expression and assembly, it said.
It said any form of unacknowledged arrest or detention is outlawed under international law. In Burma, however, political detainees are often held without charge, without access to outside communication including family members, without access to legal counsel, and without notice of the length of detention.