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Freedom House Calls for Release of Burmese Activists Imprisoned for Peaceful Protest
September 27, 2013
Freedom House condemns the prison sentences handed down to ten activists in Burma’s Rakhine state on September 26 for participating in a peaceful protest. The ten should be released immediately and the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, under which they were jailed, should be amended to comply with international human rights standards.
On September 26, authorities sentenced the ten activists to three months in prison for organizing and participating in a protest on Maday Island highlighting the adverse effects of the Chinese-backed Shwe Gas Project. Despite submitting four requests to local authorities to hold their protest, the demonstrators were denied permission, but went ahead with the peaceful action on April 18, 2013. Ten leaders of the demonstration were arrested and charged under Article 18 of the 2012 Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, which prohibits demonstrations of more than five people without permission from local authorities.
Since its enactment last year, the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law has become a tool for authorities to systematically stifle the work of human rights defenders in Burma, especially those working on environmental and land rights issues linked closely with major foreign-funded development projects. According to civil society reports, more than 100 activists have been arrested this year under the Peaceful Assembly Law, which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. The Law does not comply with international human rights standards on freedom of assembly and expression. Along with a number of other repressive laws held over from the former military junta, the Peaceful Assembly Law must be amended or repealed so that all people in Burma can exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and expression.