Widespread Torture Reported in Burma's Prisons

Monday, December 5, 2005

Monday, December 5, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

RANGOON/LONDON (BosNewsLife) -- A major report has been published this weekend documenting for the first time the extent of the government backed torture in Burma's jails, human rights investigators said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB), based in Mae Sot, Thailand, released a 124-page report called "The Darkness We See: Torture in Burma's Interrogation Centers and Prisons".

"This report is the first to show the shocking full scale of torture in Burma's interrogation centers and prisons. It should eliminate any doubt as to the severity of human rights violations against those suspected of political dissent in Burma," said Ko Tate, Secretary of the AAPPB.


The report's describes the physical, psychological, and sexual abuse used by forces of ruling military in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and alleges that the "junta combines poor prison conditions with deliberate medical negligence to cause suffering which amounts to torture."

It concludes that the main aim of Burma's prisons "is to break down all those whom the junta," a group of generals known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) "deems to be a threat to their power."

Prisoners describe in the report how they were stripped naked, humiliated, suffered electrocution to all parts of the body, severe beatings and burning with cigarettes and lighters in over crowded prisons with rats running nearby. The report claims the
beatings are often so severe that prisoners die as a result.


Among those detained by the SPDC forces are members of predominantly Christian minorities. Those who return from jail feel often isolated as the "spouse has married" or "children have difficulties to remember" them with the military secret service looking over their shoulders.

"Those who are in prison in Burma for political reasons have been arrested simply for expressing their opposition to the ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)," said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which supports the plight of persecuted Christians in the country.

Burma's most high-profile political prisoner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is the world's only Nobel Peace Prize laureate in detention. She led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to victory in the 1990 elections but elected members of Parliament were denied the right to take their seats. All of them were either jailed or exiled, human rights watchers say. Hundreds of NLD members are in prison, and most have been tortured, according to human rights activists.


For the first time, the report spotlights politicians who it suggests are "ultimately responsible for torture in Burma" including the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The serve on a three-person committee responsible for overseeing the detention of prisoners charged under section 10 (A) and (B) of the junta's State Protection Act, which provides the "legal" basis for which many prisoners are held.

The Military Intelligence Service carries out most of the torture during initial interrogations. Two further departments, the Bureau of Special Investigations and the Special Investigations Department also carry out such torture, the reports says.

The report came on the heels of a publication in September commissioned by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu. Both reports recommend that the United Nations Security Council should immediately take up the issue of Burma, and calls for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's personal involvement.


The Darkness We See is the latest in a long line of reports documenting human rights violations in Burma.

"The widespread practice of severe torture on political prisoners by the Burmese military regime is yet another reason for prompt and effective action by the UN Security Council," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive.

"CSW welcomes the publication of this report and calls on the international community to do much more to help the people of Burma who have suffered for so long under this horrifically repressive regime."

Reports of the prison conditions were expected to add to concern among mainly ethnic Christian minorities, including the Karens, who have been on the run for advancing government forces. Up to 1.5 million people are believed to be internally displaced in Burma as the government tries to secure its powerbase and ideology, said Christian Freedom International (CFI), another human rights group. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Burma)

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