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Burma: Political Prisoners

Volume 505: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had discussions in the United Nations Human Rights Council on the arrest of pro-democracy activist Nyi Nyi Aung in Burma in September 2009. (316241)

We are deeply concerned at the arrest and imprisonment of Nyi Nyi Aung and are monitoring his case closely.

We continue to take every opportunity to raise the detention of Burma's 2100 political prisoners in the UN's Human Rights bodies. At the last session of the Human Rights Council in September 2009, and at the UN General Assembly in November 2009, we helped to secure strong resolutions calling for the release of all of political prisoners. We will be looking to raise the issue again, and secure a further resolution, at the next session of the Human Rights Council in March 2010.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made representations to the Burmese authorities on permitting the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume its inspection of prisons in Burma. (316242)

The refusal of the Burmese authorities to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) independent and unsupervised access to political prisoners remains a grave concern, particularly as the number of prisoners of conscience has doubled to over 2100 since the 'Saffron revolution' in autumn 2007. We continue to urge the military government to co-operate fully with the ICRC and allow an immediate resumption of prison visits.

The UN General Assembly highlighted their concern at the condition of prisons and urged the regime to comply with human rights law in a resolution passed in November 2009. Our Ambassador in Rangoon last raised the issue of independent prison access for the ICRC to the Burmese government in August 2009 during the last visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma. Our Ambassador regularly raises the plight of political prisoners with Burmese ministers, and we remain in close contact with the ICRC on this issue.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received reports on the recent sentencing and imprisonment of a journalist who worked with the Democratic Voice of Burma. (316243)

We are aware that Democratic Voice of Burma journalist Ngwe Soe Lin was sentenced to 13 years in prison on 27 January 2010 by a Burmese military court for offences under the Electronic and Immigration Emergency Provisions Acts. This case follows the recent sentencing of two other journalists from the Democratic Voice of Burma to 20 and 26 years imprisonment respectively. At least 13 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Burma, as the Burmese authorities seek to prevent the free flow of information in advance of elections planned for later this year.

The Government have consistently called on the military authorities to release all of Burma's over 2100 prisoners of conscience. Without their release, elections planned for later this year can have no international credibility.