Criteria for AAPP’s Definition of a Political Prisoner (2011)

Information Release
Date: September 30, 2011

AAPP defines a political prisoner as anyone who is arrested because of his or her perceived or real active involvement or supporting role in political movements with peaceful or resistant means. AAPP maintains that the motivation behind the arrest of every individual in AAPP’s database is political, regardless of the laws they have been sentenced under.

The State Law Order Restoration Council and State Peace Development Council denied the existence of political prisoners; a denial reiterated by the current Thein Sein administration. Due to this, those who are in real or perceived opposition to the regime are routinely criminalized. For example, the authorities have repeatedly used false, tenuous, or trumped-up criminal charges to imprison political activists, journalists, students, and those in real or perceived opposition to the regime. To distinguish political prisoners from criminal offenders, AAPP considers the individual’s actions rather than their alleged charges. In short, the motivation behind the arrest must be political.

Rumors of an impending amnesty have been gaining traction after Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin’s recent claims to the United Nations General Assembly that an amnesty will be forthcoming at an “appropriate time in the near future .” His statements make no mention of political prisoners. If the administration is to grant a general amnesty, it must include the unconditional release of political prisoners and a wiping of their criminal records.

AAPP welcomes the release of any political prisoner, but in the absence of the rule of law, in the face of an impartial judiciary and laws that criminalize basic civil and political rights, political activists as well as ordinary people will face the ongoing threat of arrest. A future amnesty must be motivated by genuine political will if the Thein Sein administration were to shore up any credibility in the eyes of the international community.

Note: In support of the national reconciliation process and a genuine democratic transition, AAPP does not discriminate against those who participated in the armed struggle or were wrongfully convicted with criminal charges. AAPP uses the term political prisoner as a blanket phrase for all those who have been imprisoned for participating in the struggle for democracy and national reconciliation.

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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