(Brussels, 23 October) Given the rare opportunity to sit down with representatives of Myanmar’s military junta, Amnesty International strongly urges the French EU Presidency to use the occasion presented by the ASEM summit taking place in Beijing, to raise concerns about the severe human rights situation in the country.
In a letter to the French Presidency (available here) Amnesty International said that along with other human rights concerns in the region, the EU should address the violations in Myanmar where around 2,100 political prisoners are currently being detained. In accordance with the EU’s guidelines on human rights defenders, the French Presidency should take advantage of this opportunity to inquire about the prisoners, many of whom are at risk of torture.
Amnesty International has provided information on urgent cases such as that of Myo Yang Naung Thein who could be sentenced in the next three weeks. Arrested in December 2007 in connection with the filming of the September protests, he has suffered a paralysis of the lower part of his body since his arrest, to the extent that in his multiple court appearances he has had to be carried on a stretcher. Amnesty International is concerned that this could be the result of torture during interrogation sessions and called on the French Presidency to press for an immediate improvement in the conditions of his detention, and for his unconditional release.
“As co-chair, the French Presidency can ensure that the serious human rights situation in Myanmar is given the attention it deserves. ASEM’s voice could make a real difference towards these prisoners of conscience,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.
“This is a rare opportunity to engage in direct dialogue with the authorities of Myanmar which should not be missed” he added.
The on-going military offensive against the ethnic Karen civilians in eastern Myanmar is another great source of concern. The largest military operation in a decade has primarily targeted civilians, leading to almost 150,000 internally displaced people. In a report released in June 2008* Amnesty International stated that the widespread violations were crimes against humanity. It urges the French Presidency to call on Myanmar to stop all the violations against civilians in this offensive.
The human rights organization is also concerned with the ongoing constitutional process which rather than attempting to introduce the rule of law, appears to legitimise the government’s continuing human rights abuses. The EU should lead efforts to press the Myanmar authorities to radically alter the Constitutional draft.
The report “Crimes against humanity in eastern Myanmar” is available here.