The government of Burma has made progress on its pledge to review, through a transparent process, the cases of and to release the nation’s remaining prisoners of conscience and political prisoners.
In a speech made in London July 15, President Thein Sein announced that Burma will release all political prisoners by the end of the year, another in a series of reforms made since the transition to quasi-civilian led rule in 2011.
Over 850 prisoners have already been released on amnesty grounds in the last three years amid international calls to end political repression. To determine who qualifies as a prisoner of conscience, a multi-stakeholder commission, the Political Prisoner Review Committee, was set up in February to formally review the charges against them and work to set them free. Civil society groups estimate there are about 200 remaining political prisoner cases.
The United States welcomes President Thein Sein’s announcement. We encourage the government to continue working expeditiously through the Political Prisoner Review Committee for the unconditional release of those still held and to remove conditions place on those individuals released to date.
We also hope that the effort will not stop there. To prevent the arrest of new political prisoners, or the re-arrest of those conditionally released in the past, comprehensive legal reforms should be adopted in line with international human rights standards.