Thursday, March 6, 2008

Detainees in Burma: In a lawless land, any law will do

Thursday, March 06, 2008
Awzar Thi [member, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong]:

"Human rights advocates, lawyers and journalists are often concerned with how special laws are used to suppress dissent and deny basic freedoms in countries around the world. Internal security acts and emergency decrees attract widespread interest and strong critiques. How ordinary laws are used to the same ends often obtains less notice. And yet it is in the workings of mundane codes and procedures that the efforts of governments to control the largest numbers of their citizens are brought into sharpest focus.

Burma is a case in point. Democracy campaigners have long described it as having some of the most draconian and sweeping security laws in the world. Now a lawyer has said that around 20 detainees are likely to be charged under one of these. The persons, held since last August, are expected to face charges under law 5/96 for “acts such as incitement, delivering speeches, making oral and written statements and disseminating in various ways [sic] to belittle the National Convention” on a new constitution.

Like hundreds of other people locked up since the nationwide uprising last year, none of these persons were ever in fact arrested. Unidentified men bundled them into unofficial vehicles and took them to undisclosed places. They were snatched. Even the state media quietly acknowledged this much, describing them as “brought, investigated and questioned”. Those freed have been forced to sign incoherent pledges, admitting that they have committed undefined crimes and have been released because of the state’s goodwill.............( Click Title)

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