Global Justice Center Blog

Reflections on This Week’s Release of 184 Political Prisoners in Burma

As 184 prisoners of conscience have been released in Burma this week, GJC has been hearing news of – and from – newly released friends.

Rather than feeling jubilation or unconstrained hope, we are reminded through our personal conversations with them of the overwhelming feelings that come with being released (in some cases, after 23 years) as well as the despairing anguish of knowing that so many other political prisoners remain in prisons across Burma.

We are also mindful of the more than 1,816 prisoners of conscience themselves who continue to await release – including many who have been waiting for decades. We think, too, of their loved ones, including many who today continue to hope and wait outside of prisons in Burma with the hope that the person they love will be among those released.

History teaches us that what should be unfettered hope for our newly released friends in Burma, and even measured hope for those political prisoners who remain detained, must be tempered by skepticism and caution until real, proven change comes.

As those of us with friends or loved ones in (or newly released from) prisons in Burma understand, what should be unbridled joy at the release of 184 political prisoners (of 6,359 prisoners released) must in fact be bridled by the understanding that releases such as this one are strategically timed by the military for political advantage.

Even as the number of political prisoners released grows incrementally to 220 (October 13), friends of Burma are now called to pay ever more careful attention to what is and is not being done by the regime, for example by noticing the discrepancy in numbers between the total prisoners released and actual number of political prisoners released. By doing so, we will not mistake much more progress and promise for what has in fact been delivered.

All of this said, we extend our heartfelt best wishes to the 184 political prisoners who have been released this week and their families.

By Julaine Eberhard, Geneva Project Consultant for the Global Justice Center

Burma’s New Threat to Global Security

"Burma's New Threat to Global Security" is an article by Janet Benshoof (President and Founder of the GJC) published in Democratic Voices of Burma.

This article explains the mistake the global community is making in allowing Burma to continue to violate international law. The new constitution is not a step towards democracy, because under it military power is still unchecked.

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Exposing a “Pornography Ploy”: The Global Justice Center calls for President U Thein Sein to release all political prisoners and make public all related trial transcripts

The Global Justice Center calls for President U Thein Sein to release all political prisoners and make public all related trial transcripts.

The Global Justice Center today released a October 23, 2008 official court transcript which exposes the military’s use of trumped up pornography charges to convict fourteen Buddhist nuns and monks suspected of supporting the “saffron revolution” of 2007.

The six page judgment, signed by Judge U Peine Tun Aung after a one-day “trial,” convicted the seven nuns and seven monks of possessing “dirty” videos which “insulted” religion and sentenced them to imprisonment with hard labor for four years and three months. The judgment in Burmese can be found here. [English translation forthcoming.]

Among those convicted was Daw Pone Na Mee (Daw Mya Nyunt), an elderly, crippled, 84-year-old nun, who was one of the political prisoners visited by UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Tomas Quintana in 2008. Mr. Quintana’s report on this visit related that the infirm nun told him she had no idea why she was in prison.

Burma’s top officials including the President and Chief Justice have consistently denied that political prisoners exist and claim that all prisoners have been convicted for committing serious crimes.

The Global Justice Center, a New York based human rights law group, calls for Burma’s President U Thein Sein to explain the full extent of this “perfidious pornography ploy,” and to release the trial transcripts of all current and former political prisoners, including any which are included in the upcoming release of 6,359 prisoners.

To read the full Global Justice Center press release, click here.