AAPP cconcerned About Denial of Family vVsits for Sick Political Prisoners (2011)

Press release
8 February 2011

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is deeply concerned about the ban on family visits for sick political prisoner Daw Htet Htet Oo Wai. She has been placed in solitary confinement and her family have not been allowed to visit her for three months. Daw Htet Htet Oo Wai, a member of the National League for Democracy Party, is currently serving a 5 year sentence in Putao prison, Kachin State.

Her daughter reported: “my mother’s health is not good…she is losing feeling in her left leg. I am very upset because we haven’t seen her for three months…We were not allowed to leave parcels for her either”

Burmese law states that prisoners have the right to receive visits once every two weeks, a right also provided for by international human rights standards. In reality, this is not the case. In Burma, prison authorities arbitrarily suspend visits from family for political prisoners, as well as intercepting and censoring letters. Political prisoners are routinely subjected to solitary confinement, harassment, and beatings, especially those who speak out.

“Burma’s places of detention are rife with abuse and inhumane conditions are the norm, therefore, family visits are vital not only to the health and survival of prisoners but also to their morale and mental well-being. The suspension of ICRC visits to Burma’s prisons, labour camps and interrogation centres makes regular family visits even more imperative”, Ko Bo kyi , said.

Burma’s famous comedian and political prisoner, Zarganar has faced a total ban on family visits for over nine months. The last visit was in May 2010. He is currently in Myitkyina prison, Kachin State, over 900 miles from Rangoon.

Without family visits, the imprisonment of political prisoners can become incommunicado detention. Incommunicado detention arises when detainees are denied access to anyone outside the place of detention. In 2003, the UN Commission on Human Rights concluded: “prolonged incommunicado detention … can in itself constitute a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture”.

“The authorities often fail to notify family members when visits are cancelled. Because the journey to prisons is often long and costly, this practice places an unnecessary burden on family members as was the case with Daw Htet Htet Oo Wai’s daughter who arrived at the prison to see her sick mother”, Bo Kyi said.

In December 2010, Nilar Thein, an 88 Generation Student leader, faced a similar punishment after complaining about prison conditions. She was put in a punishment cell and denied the right to family visits. When her sister and 3 year old daughter visited they were turned away at the prison gates.

AAPP has also has received reports of the authorities failing to inform family members when they transfer a relative to a different prison. Family members arrive at the prison only to find their loved one was transferred to a different prison far away.

The policy of prison transfers to remote prisons is a deliberate strategy employed by the regime to breakdown the resolve of political prisoners by removing the support provided to them by their families. In the case of monk, U Pyinnyarsara, in October 2010, the authorities would not tell his family or lawyer the prison where he was transferred to and they were unable to visit him.

At least 154 political prisoners are in poor health due to the harsh prison conditions, transfers to remote prisons where there are no doctors, and the denial of proper medical care.

“The ban on family visits, along with solitary confinement, the denial of medical care and the transfer of political prisoners to remote prisons far away from their families has devastating consequences. Prisoners also have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress, granting prison authorities total impunity. Taken together, these forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment rise to the level of torture”, Ko Bo Kyi said.

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
For more information –
Tate Naing (Secretary): +66 (0) 812 878 751
Bo Kyi (Joint Secretary); +66 (0) 819 628 713