Press Release, Embargoed Until Midnight, December 1st, 2005 in Thailand (12:00 noon in Washington, DC)
Media Contacts; Thailand: Ko Tate (66) 1 287-8751, Bo Kyi (66) 1 324-8935, Tokyo: Phone Myint Htun (81) 90 4221 1988, Washington, DC: Aung Din (202) 223-0300
Groundbreaking New Report Reveals "Shocking" Torture of Political Prisoners
in Burma, Identifies Torturers and Chain of Command For First Time
Senator John McCain says report shows torture in Southeast Asian country
is "state policy of Burma's junta"
(December 2, 2005; Bangkok, Tokyo, and Washington, DC) An Asian-based human
rights group today released an authoritative report detailing the brutal
and systematic torture of political prisoners that for the first time
specifically names those directly responsible in Burma's military regime,
as well was reveals the "shocking" scale and severity of the practice.
The 124 page report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPPB), "The Darkness We See: Torture in Burma's Interrogation Centers and Prisons" is released on the heels of an international push led by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and South Africa's 1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu to place Burma on the UN Security Council agenda. The effort has gained support after Burma's military regime has refused to implement a total of 27 UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human Rights resolutions calling for change. The European Parliament endorsed UN Security Council action two weeks ago, while U.S. President George W. Bush pointedly raised Burma on his recent trip to Asia.
Reacting to the report, Senator John McCain, whose essay "Torture's Terrible Toll" appeared on the cover of Newsweek Magazine in late November, said "My heart goes out to those suffering for their belief in human rights and democracy. This report demonstrates that torture of political prisoners is a state policy of Burma's junta. All Americans, who stand by the Burmese people in their aspirations for freedom, should be outraged." McCain went on to say that the report "Illustrates in painstaking detail yet one more reason why United Nations Security Council action is long overdue. Those who care about human rights and human decency should press the Security Council to take up the issue of Burma immediately."
The evidence in the report is based on interviews with thirty-five former political prisoners conducted by AAPP. The report is divided into sections detailing the various forms of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse used by the junta. The report also explains how deliberately poor prison conditions combined with purposeful medical negligence are encouraged and perpetrated by the junta to cause an aggravated degree of suffering tantamount to torture. It concludes that Burma's prisons have become institutions whose primary function is to deliberately and systematically shatter the identity of political activists and other civilians deemed threatening by the junta.
Tactics currently being used on political prisoners include:
- Severe beatings, often resulting in loss of consciousness and sometimes death
- Electrocution to all parts of the body including genitals
- Rubbing iron rods on shins of prisoners until flesh is ripped off, a tactic known in Burma as the "iron road"
- Burning with cigarettes and lighters
- Pro-longed restriction of movements, for up to several months, using rope and shackles around the neck and ankles
- Repeatedly striking the same area of a person's body every second for several hours, a tactic known in Burma as "tick-tock torture"
Said Ko Tate, Secretary of the AAPP: "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."
Most political prisoners in Burma are arrested for publicly expressing or otherwise indicating opposition to the ruling military junta. Burma's most high-profile political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, is the world's only Nobel Peace Prize recipient in detention. Hundreds of members of her political party, the National League for Democracy, are held in prison. Most have been tortured.
The report reveals for the first time the chain of command and individuals responsible for torture in Burma. The Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Foreign Affairs all 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. In that capacity, these individuals are directly responsible for torture in Burma, in addition to those serving under them.
Torture carried out during initial interrogations is carried out mainly by the Military Intelligence Service, which is under the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence, organized under the Minister of Defense. Interrogation is additionally conducted by the Bureau of Special Investigations, and the Special Investigations Department (also known as the Special Branch, part of the Burma Police Force), that report to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council should immediately take up issue of Burma, and calls for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's personal involvement. "We are pleading for the United Nations to take meaningful action," added Ko Tate, "If not now, when?" The UK, Burma's former colonial power, serves as the chair of the UN Security Council in December. # # #