Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Burma human rights commission says ‘dog cells’ not true


Tuesday, 03 January 2012 19:17 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Internaitonal reports of “dog cells” and lack of adequate water in notorious Insein Prison in Rangoon are not accurate, according to a statement by Burma’s Human Rights Commission published in The New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper.

The only serious fault the commission found was overcrowded conditions.

Eight commission members visited Insein and two other prisons in December to investigate reports by Amnesty International that recent hunger strikers claimed they lived in "dog cells" and were deprived of water.

After being escorted around the prisons and interviewing three former hunger strikers in Insein, the commission concluded the allegations were "untrue."

"All prisoners interviewed stated that they were not deprived of water and were provided with medical attention both during and after the strikes," the United Press International reported, quoting the statement. "The allegations regarding 'dog cells' also proved to be untrue. The hunger strikers were each held in cells measuring 10 feet by 22 feet, which were clean and property ventilated."

The commission based the findings on visits to Insein, Hlay-Hlaw-Inn Yebet Prison Labor Camp and Myitkyina Prison, said UPI.

The team said in Insein it inspected healthcare and recreational facilities and the serving of daily meals. It also observed formal education classes including those of linguistics and computer training, as well as "religious activities."

The commission said the number of prisoners in Insein "far exceeds its maximum holding capacity" and is an "important source of grievances which should be addressed in a timely fashion."

In stark contrast, a 2009 report by the BBC noted that political activists dubbed Insein the "darkest hell-hole in Burma."

Bo Kyi, a secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), told the BBC that he was kept in a concrete cell 8 feet by 12 feet with no toilet, "just a bucket filled with urine and feces" and slept on a mat on the floor. Kyi told the BBC he was tortured and beaten by prison guards.

The Insein report is the first for the commission, which includes retired law, labor and history professors, and a retired director general of the government's Forest Department.

It was set up in September after the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, called for an independent government human rights commission to investigate repeated reports of abuses.

Many observers have questioned whether the commission's retired civil servants and scholars would have the ability to challenge the government on questions of human rights. 

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