Monday, January 14, 2013

HRW calls on Burma to drop charges against peace activists

Monday, 14 January 2013 00:00 Mizzima News

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday called on Burma’s authorities to drop charges against nine activists who participated in peaceful protests in Rangoon in September against the war in Kachin State.

Demonstrators protesting the ongoing conflict in Kachin State march through the streets of Rangoon on September 21, 2012, to mark International Peace Day. (Ye Min / Mizzima)

“The government’s prosecution of peaceful demonstrators reveals troubling limits on Burma’s respect for basic rights,” said Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director at HRW. “Burma’s leaders may be saying the right things at global forums and in bilateral talks, but their reform rhetoric rings hollow on the streets and in the fields where protesters assemble.”

Since September, authorities have denied protest applications in Rangoon and Monywa, violently cracked down on anti-mining protests near Monywa in Sagaing Division, and used the Peaceful Assembly law to prosecute rather than protect those exercising their basic rights, HRW said.

Each of the activists faces up to one year in prison in each of the 10 townships through which the peace march passed if convicted.

“The Burmese government evidently needs a mental reset to recognize that peaceful protests make for a vibrant democracy,” said Robertson. “Burma should have laws that encourage peaceful assembly and authorities who understand and respect it.”
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