BURMA: Concerns for the health of detained human rights defenders
July 2, 2009
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-016-2009
2 July 2009
[RE: AHRC-UAC-025-2008: BURMA: Nine people convicted without admissible evidence over protests; AHRC-UAC-052-2008: BURMA: Young man wrongly jailed on charge of inciting September protests; AHRC UA-248-2007; AHRC UP-121-2007: BURMA: Workers' rights advocates given long jail terms; AHRC-UAC-183-2008: BURMA: At least three more rights defenders arrested over cyclone relief work; AHRC UP-105-2007: BURMA: Six human rights defenders given jail terms; one awaits verdict; AHRC-UAC-248-2008: BURMA: BURMA: First charges against monk who led protests and 10 others now going to court; UP-219-2006: BURMA: Two human rights defenders given long jail sentences]
BURMA: Concerns for the health of detained human rights defenders
ISSUES: Right to health, prison conditions
HUMAN RIGHTS BLOG
PYITHU HITTAING: BURMESE-LANGUAGE BLOG
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed about the worsening health of some human rights defenders currently detained in prisons in Burma on whose cases we have earlier issued appeals. Some of the prisoners have received no medical assistance despite their serious conditions.
Pyi Phyoe Hlaing (AHRC-UAC-025-2009) and Ko Thiha (AHRC-UAC-052-2008), who were arrested over the September 2007 antigovernment protests, are suffering from TB and stomach and heart illnesses respectively. In May Pyi Phyoe Hlaing received treatment at a government hospital for three days, throughout which he was kept chained to his bed.
Thurein Aung, Ko Way Lin and Ko Nyi Nyi Zaw were all imprisoned with three others because of a labour rights program that they organised to mark May Day 2007 (AHRC UP-121-2007). Thurein Aung has eye and stomach problems and is getting no treatment. Way Lin has contracted tuberculosis while in prison, and Nyi Nyi Zaw is suffering from bone complaints after being kept in solitary confinement for three months.
U Myint Aye, Ko Myo Min and Ko Than Zaw Myint are the head and two members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group who were all arrested over unauthorised Cyclone Nargis relief work in mid-2008 (AHRC-UAC-183-2008). They are all suffering from a variety of medical problems. Myint Aye has high blood pressure, diabetes and a heart condition; Myo Min has reportedly had a nervous breakdown.
Ko Myint Naing, one of the Hinthada 6 (Hinthada 6 page) is still suffering the effects of head injuries caused by assault prior to arrest, has a stomach illness and has reportedly had a nervous breakdown; he is receiving no medical treatment.
U Gambira, a monk-leader of the September 2007 protests who was charged with a multitude of offences in a variety of courts (AHRC-UAC-248-2008) was assaulted during a prison transfer and is suffering from head and back problems as a result.
Ko Win Ko, who with another young detainee was picked up for helping to get signatures on a pro-democracy petition in 2006 (AHRC UP-219-2006), has lung and stomach ailments.
It is important to note that not only have the authorities in Myanmar failed in their duty of care for these detainees, but they have sent them all to prisons away from their home towns and districts, so that it is very difficult for their relatives and friends to visit and give assistance to them, such as good food and medicines. The authorities have shown the extent of their vindictiveness against these persons by not only failing to fulfil their obligations towards them but also by actively obstructing opportunities for others to take up these obligations where they have declined to do so.
Not only have the families and relatives suffered great inconvenience in visiting and helping these detainees, but the International Committee of the Red Cross continues to be denied access to prisons and prisoners in Myanmar, since the authorities there refuse to comply with the terms of its internationally-recognized and globally-established mandate.
Conditions in Myanmar's prisons are known to be extremely poor and it is common for detainees to contract life-threatening illnesses, and at very least have their lives considerably reduced in length by a short stay in one of these facilities.
Most of these cases are also detailed in two special reports in the article 2 periodical, "Saffron Revolution imprisoned, law denied" (vol. 7, no. 3, September 2008) and "Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia" (vol. 6, no. 5-6, December 2007).
Please write to the persons listed below to call for the 11 detainees to receive proper medical treatment and to be transferred back to facilities close to their hometowns, where they will be able to receive the support of family and friends. We are including the UN Secretary General at the top of the list as he is shortly to visit Myanmar.
Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this matter.
MYANMAR: Grave concern for the health of detainees in state prisons
I am gravely concerned for the health and welfare of a number of detainees currently in Myanmar prisons, including the following 11 persons about whom I have been informed:
1. Pyi Phyoe Hlaing, (a.k.a. Athay Lay, Maung Win), convicted in Felony Nos. 99-102/08, Sanchaung Township Court, on 11 November 2008 to 24 years in prison; held at Buthidaung Prison, Rakhine State: on 5 May 2009 he was transferred to the prison hospital and on May 10 from there to the Sittwe Hospital, where he was treated until May 13 and then transferred to the Sittwe Prison with instructions to be treated for tuberculosis (TB). Throughout his treatment at the town hospital he was kept in hand and feet restraints.
2. Ko Thiha, convicted in Felony No. 134/07 in the Mandalay District Court on 17 September 2007, sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment; held at the Putao Prison, Kachin State, suffering from stomach, heart and nervous conditions.
3. Ko Thurein Aung, sentenced to 28 years under section 124A of the Penal Code, section 13(1) of the Burma Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1947, and section 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act, 1908 in Felony Nos. 82-84/07, Yangon North District Court on 7 September 2007, sent to Kyaukhpyu Prison, Rakhine State: suffering from eye and stomach conditions and has lost considerable weight; receiving no medical treatment at all.
4. Ko Way Lin, sentenced to 28 years under section 124A of the Penal Code, section 13(1) of the Burma Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1947, and section 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act, 1908 in Felony Nos. 82-84/07, Yangon North District Court on 7 September 2007: contracted TB while in Insein Central Prison, has been transferred to a remote prison and is receiving some treatment.
5. Ko Nyi Nyi Zaw, sentenced to 20 years under section 124A of the Penal Code, Yangon North District Court on 7 September 2007, sent to Kyaikdone Prison, Mon State where he was kept in solitary confinement for three months: suffering from a bone condition.
6. Ko Myo Min, detained on 6 August 2008 and subsequently sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment; detained at Khanti Prison, Shan State: suffering from a nervous breakdown and stomach illness.
7. Ko Than Zaw Myint, detained on 7 August 2008; detained at Khanti Prison, Shan State: suffering from dizziness and neck pain.
8. U Myint Aye, sentenced to 20 years under sections 3 & 6 of the Explosive Substances Act 1908 in Felony No. 102/08, Yangon North District Court, and section 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act, 1908 in Felony No. 2195/08, Insein Township Court, both on 28 November 2008; sent to Loikaw Prison, Kayah State: suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and a heart condition.
9. Ko Myint Naing, sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment for four separate charges under section 505(b) of the Penal Code in Felony Nos. 742 & 743/07, Hinthada Township Court, on 24 July 2007; sent to Khanti Prison, Shan State: suffering effects of head injuries caused by assault prior to arrest, including dizziness, as well as stomach illness and a nervous breakdown; receiving no medical treatment.
10. U Gambira, sentenced to 65 years' imprisonment (so far reduced to 60 years on appeal) under section 505(b) and section 295A of the Penal Code, Felony Case No. 165/08, section 17(1), Unlawful Association Act 1908, Felony No. 171/08, section 13(1), Immigration Law (Emergency Provisions, Temporary) 1947, all in Ahlone Township Court; section 6, Organisation Law 1988, Felony No. 184/08, sections 17 & 20, Printers and Publishers Act 1962, Felony Nos. 185-6/08, section 17(1), Unlawful Association Act 1908, Felony Nos. 187-9/08, section 13(1), Immigration Law (Emergency Provisions, Temporary) 1947, Felony Nos. 190-2/08, all in Kamayut Township Court; sections 295A & 505(b), Penal Code, Felony Nos. 506-8/08, Kyimyindaing Township Court; sections 33(a) & 38, Electronic Transactions Law 2004, Felony No. 19/08, Yangon West District Court: sent to Khanti Prison, Shan State, and during transfer to Kale Prison, Sagaing Division was repeatedly assaulted, resulting in injuries to his head and back.
11. Ko Win Ko, sentenced to a total of 7 years under Penal Code section 353(2) and the Gambling Act sections 15(a) and 16(a) on 18 October 2006, Criminal Case Nos. 652/06, 653/06, Letpadan Township Court; and sections 420, 465, 468 of the Penal Code, in Tharawaddy Township Court in November 2006; sent to Taungoo Prison, Bago Division; suffering from lung and stomach illnesses.
I note with special concern that all of these detainees have been transferred to facilities far from their native towns, which indicates a pattern of systematic transfer to remote prisons as an additional informal form of punishment, since it makes visits by family and friends much more difficult. However, of special importance is that as a result of this practice, the authorities are cutting off important forms of assistance for the health and well-being of the detainees, not only in the form of the psychological closeness to their loved-ones that they need to get through years of incarceration but also because visitors bring food, medicines and other necessities that can mean the difference between health and sickness, life and death for someone in a Myanmar prison for a long period of time.
In this regard I also draw special attention to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which were adopted over 50 years ago, and which include in their numerous provisions that:
"22. (1) At every institution there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services should be organized in close relationship to the general health administration of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality. (2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers...
"25. (1) The medical officer shall have the care of the physical and mental health of the prisoners and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and any prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed. (2) The medical officer shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner's physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment."
It is very much apparent that these provisions are very far from being met in Myanmar and it may be better to say that the opposite situation of what is laid out in these standards are what goes on in Myanmar, given that some of the prison facilities where the abovementioned persons are detained reportedly do not even have any prison doctor, let alone daily visits and medicines.
Accordingly, I urge the government of Myanmar, on strictly humanitarian grounds, to transfer the abovementioned detainees to prisons close to their hometowns where they can obtain support and assistance through the visits of family and friends, and take up the burden of responsibility that it owes to all those persons in its custody to see that they are treated humanely and receive the medical and other attention that they need in order that they not be released from jail in worse condition than when they went in.
Finally, I would like to stress that for prison conditions to be improved for the benefit of all detainees in Myanmar it is absolutely essential that the International Committee of the Red Cross be permitted access to the facilities in accordance with the terms of its globally-recognised and approved mandate. It is incomprehensible and totally unacceptable that since December 2005 the ICRC has been denied access to Myanmar's jails, given that its role is strictly confidential and humanitarian in nature. Not only the prison population of Myanmar but also the government of Myanmar has nothing to lose and much to gain by again having ICRC visits to prison facilities, and I urge that approval for these visits be given without further delay.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General
S-378 New York
Fax: +1 212 963 7055 or 2155 (ATTN: SECRETARY GENERAL)
2. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439
3. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624
4. U Aung Toe
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059
5. U Zaw Win
Tel: + 951 642 103 - 105
Fax: +951 642 845
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (email@example.com)