Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [report, PDF] Myanmar’s Parliament to align its draft prisons law with international human rights laws and standards. The draft prisons law, designed to repeal the 1894 Prisons Act, the 1900 Prisoners Act and the 1920 Identification of Prisoners Act, was introduced in July 2015, but rights activists claim it remains deficient [Irrawaddy op-ed] in many ways. According to AI, the bill lacks specifics on how prisons should be reformed to meet the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. It is reportedly devoid of legal safeguards against torture, ill-treatment, unlawful detention, and forced labour and contains almost no provisions relating to minimum standards of health, food, potable water, accommodation, sanitation, and hygiene. AI stated that it also retains provisions for solitary confinement and other means of restraint as disciplinary measures. “If Myanmar is serious about improving prisons conditions and generally preventing torture and other ill-treatment, it needs to cast light into the dark cells where prisoners are kept and enact reforms that are worthy of the ambition,” said Rafendi Djamin, AI’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. AI’s recommendations placed particular emphasis on compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules [text, PDF]. The report offers suggestions for improving staff management, prisoner management and disciplinary measures.
Myanmar has long been critiqued for issues regarding human rights. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the Myanmar Parliament in May to reconsider a proposed law that they say has the potential to limit free expression and peaceful assembly. Earlier in the same month Secretary of State John Kerry [official profile] pushed [JURIST report] for the country to reach for more democratic reform and address human rights issues. AI also suggested [JURIST report] in March that Myanmar’s democratic reform was an opportunity to improve conditions and break away from its previous “deeply repressive legal framework that for years has fueled arbitrary arrests and repression.” AI called for the immediate release of prisoners of conscience such as journalists, human rights activists, labor rights leaders, land activists and students who “have been threatened, harassed and jailed for nothing but peacefully speaking their minds.”