Rights group: Myanmar's jail sentence reductions a «joke»
May 17, 2011, 4:04 GMT
Yangon - Myanmar's move to reduce all current jail sentences by one year was little more than a «sick joke,» Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Myanmar President Thein Sein announced the partial amnesty, which also commuted death sentences to life in prison, on state-run television Monday night.
The announcement followed last week's visit by the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar.
Nambiar reportedly asked the newly elected government to release the more than 2,000 political prisoners to demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform.
«The government's gesture will be welcomed by a great many prisoners in Burma, but for the 2,100 political prisoners unjustly serving sentences of up to 65 years, the one-year reduction is a sick joke,» said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
«This is a pathetic response to international calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners,» she said in a statement released in Bangkok.
Myanmar's military junta that ruled the country from 1988 to 2010 always maintained no political prisoners were in the country's penal system, a claim that the new administration reiterated to Nambiar last week.
The current administration, nominally civilian, consists largely of former military men.
The country's most famous political prisoner, the democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from her latest six-year house detention on November 13.
Rights groups have compiled a list of at least 2,100 prisoners held on political charges, such as holding protests without authorization and threatening national security.
Human Rights Watch has urged the international community to continue to shun the elected government until it demonstrates a real commitment to political reform.
The November 7 general election was won by the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party, led by former general Thein Sein.
The election was criticized by Western nations because it excluded Suu Kyi, who was still under house arrest at the time, and her National League for Democracy (NLD).
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The NLD won an election in 1990 but was blocked from assuming power by the junta.
The NLD did not run in the November polls after the military passed regulations that would have forced it to expel Suu Kyi from the party to contest the elections.
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