Former Political Prisoners Call for Justice Ministry

By Zue Zue 27 September 2016

Former political prisoners have called on the Union government to establish a justice ministry to ensure judicial independence.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released a study on Burma’s prisons on Monday, detailing prison conditions and the prospect of prison reform.

“If a prisoner complains about human rights abuse, there should be a credible body not related to the home affairs ministry—like a ministry of justice,” said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent leader of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society.

Ko Ko Gyi admits that it would be a daunting task to establish a new ministry and stressed the need for detailed discussion between the government, Parliament, civil society organizations, and international experts.

The study suggests forming a Ministry of Justice and passing the responsibility of administering prisons from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the newly proposed ministry.

It took AAPP two years to finish the report, which provides several recommendations to the new government—including reviewing all legislation pertaining to the prison sector in order to align it with international standards, signing relevant international conventions, and ensuring all prison staff are adequately trained, especially in human rights standards and the use of force.

The AAPP has vowed to take an active part in prison reform and plans to conduct more studies and release more reports, said U Bo Kyi of the AAPP. Government cooperation was weak in compiling the report and greater collaboration is required to compile new reports, he added.

“The report is not comprehensive. We made it with as much information as we could gather. We still need many facts about prisons and strong cooperation from the government,” said U Bo Kyi.

The new government should not treat prison facts and figures as state secrets, but instead maintain official websites to inform the public about the number of prisons, detention camps and inmates as a fundamental requirement for prison reform, he said.

Activists engaged in helping prisoners of conscience have called on the government to carry out an independent and unbiased investigation into torture against existing and former political prisoners and to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).

This story was translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.