Advocacy Group to Govt: Join UN Convention Against Torture

By San Yamin Aung 15 September 2016

RANGOON — An advocacy group for Burmese political prisoners urged State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to join the United Nations’ Convention against Torture (CAT) to help eradicate the practice in Burma.

U Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), told The Irrawaddy that torture is still present in Burma, including in ethnic areas.

He said criminal suspects are tortured during interrogation in police custody, domestic workers are tortured by employers, and students are tortured by teachers.

The rights group has long claimed that Burma’s military and police—as well as some non-state armed groups—have used torture to coerce civilians into confessing.

AAPP said in the statement on Thursday that ratification of the CAT would show the international community that Burma’s new government is dedicated to human rights, would reduce ongoing torture of civilians, and encourage trust between ethnic factions.

According to a report by the AAPP and the Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPS) published in May this year, between 7,000 and 10,000 political prisoners have been imprisoned in Burma since 1962.

The report gathered data on 1,621 former political prisoners and stated that 72 percent of them had been subjected to physical torture and 75 percent were psychologically tortured. Eight of the political prisoners died during interrogation.

AAPP said that Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, formerly National League for Democracy Lower House lawmaker for Pwintbyu, Magwe Division and now chief minister of the region, submitted a proposal urging the previous government to sign the UN treaty back in 2013. The previous military-backed government said they would sign the treaty but did not follow through.

“Signing the treaty is important for the dignity of the new government and to protect Burmese individuals’ security,” U Bo Kyi of AAPP said. “By signing and ratifying the international convention, we would also get assistance from the international community to eradicate torture in the country.”

He added that after ratifying the convention, the government would need to prepare laws and form monitoring groups to successfully implement it. “We need to bring awareness to armed groups, the authorities, and the public to take action against torturers,” Bo Kyi said.

Burma’s State Counselor and foreign minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now on her official visit to the United States. She is scheduled to attend the 71st session of the UN general assembly in New York.