International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Weekly Highlights: The Release of all Human Rights Defenders and Political Prisoners is a Benchmark for Free and Fair Elections


20-26 July 2015
Weekly Highlights

The Release of all Human Rights Defenders and Political Prisoners is a Benchmark for Free and Fair Elections

Burma Partnership and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released the joint report, "How to Defend the Defenders? A Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burma and Appropriate Protection Mechanisms" on 25 July 2015. The report highlights the key threats that human rights defenders (HRDs) in Burma face, including oppressive legislation, a corrupt judiciary, violence and a lack of protection, as well as providing policy recommendations to relevant actors. The report points to a picture of a deteriorating human rights situation, in which the authorities are often the main perpetrators or are at least complicit in targeting, oppressing, stifling, controlling and silencing HRDs and the valuable work they carry out.

One of the key tools of repression used by the government, the report highlighted, was the use of Section 18 of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act (the Assembly Law), among other pieces of legislation. As stated by Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary of AAPP, "The Assembly Law continues to be used extensively by the authorities as a tool to imprison and silence HRDs… the legal system is being used to develop and implement oppressive laws, a practice that signifies the real need for legislative and judicial reform in Burma."

To illustrate the point, human rights activist Su Su Nway was arrested on 23 July 2015 for assisting farmers in Pegu Division as they had attempted to gain recourse for the 1,000 acres of farmland that had been confiscated by the military. Her subsequent arrest and charge for Defamation under the Penal Code demonstrates the impunity that the Burma Army and authorities enjoy, as well as the use of repressive legislation to stifle the work of HRDs.

Another finding of the report that was illustrated by recent, emerging news is the continued use of surveillance, particularly online surveillance, to monitor, harass, and interfere in private communications. This was particularly used during the March 2015 student protests against the National Education Law in Latpadan. It was revealed this week by Wikileaks that discussions were held in 2014 between the Italian firm, 'The Hacking Team' that specializes in software for spying and online surveillance, and a company that stated it represented the Ministry of Defence. The spyware firm, 'The Hacking Team' offered "active IT intrusion" to the Burma Government, who had shown interest in an "offensive solution." As highlighted in the report, the student activists were acutely aware of this subversive harassment and interference through online social media that was employed by the Burma Government.

The research from this joint report found that a shocking 45% of women HRDs had experienced sexual harassment, including actual sexual or physical abuse. The perpetrators were diverse, and include the Burma Army, local authorities, members of communities and ethnic armed groups. A lack of understanding and support in communities where sexual abuse occurs further exacerbates the situation.

Overall the report finds that HRDs in Burma are subject to a range of threats, harassment, and intimidation in an attempt to stop them from carrying out their essential, valuable, and legitimate human rights work. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders that was adopted in 1998 outlines the importance of the work that HRDs conduct, and that the best way of promoting and protecting human rights in a country is to defend HRDs. It further outlines how it is the responsibility of the state to protect HRDs and that the international community must hold that state accountable if the state fails to do so.

In Burma's case, the excessive persecution of HRDs is a flagrant violation of this Declaration, and the international community must be more active in pressuring the Burma Government to end the targeting of HRDs. As former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana wrote in his foreword for this report, "In the midst of the next general elections, we should re-emphasize our ambitions for real and meaningful transformation, because it's time for democracy, it's time for politics, it's time for human rights. And those who defend those values are indispensable." Now that the national elections are only four months away, the Burma Government must show their respect for the voting rights of these HRDs currently in prison and/or detained, immediately and unconditionally release them and all political prisoners, and drop all charges against those awaiting trials.


Latest from the Blog

Land Confiscation Continues Unabated Across Southeastern Burma
By Burma Partnership


Su Su Nway, a labor rights activist, was arrested and charged for her work advocating for farmers whose land was confiscated by the Burma Army

Clashes between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burma Army in Kachin State have displaced over a thousand civilians and the Burma Army has prevented access to Sumpra Bum Township since fighting intensified, therefore, many have not received food and other aid for more than a week
and in need urgent humanitarian assistance says local groups

Lashin Lu and Hkawn Nan fled their home as a result of their houses being burned when fighting occurred in 2011 in Kachin State. While the women found refuge in an internally displaced persons camp, their husbands were illegally arrested by members of the Burma Army and tortured in detention. The wives are currently seeking justice for thier husbands, and calling for their immediae and unconditional release

Statements and Press Releases

Amid a Worsening Human Rights Situation, the Burma Government Must End the Persecution of Human Rights Defenders
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and Burma Partnership

Jailed for Calling Themselves Rohingya

By Burma Campaign UK

The Ethnic Armed Organizations' Senior Delegation and the Union Peace Working Committee Complete Third Day of 8th Meeting for Conclusive Negotiations of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

By The Ethnic Armed Organization's Senior Delegation and The Union Peace Working Committee

Villagers Remain Fearful after Burma Army Rape-Murder in Ho Pong, Despite Punishment of Alleged Culprit

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

U.S. Embassy Statement on Kachin Fighting

By US Embassy in Rangoon


How to Defend the Defenders? A Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burma and Appropriate Protection Mechanisms

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and Burma Partnership

Report Briefer: How to Defend the Defenders? A Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Burma and Appropriate Protection Mechanisms

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and Burma Partnership

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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."