POLITICAL PRISONER DEFINITION
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. AAPP maintains that the motivation behind the arrest of every individual in AAPP’s database is a political motivation, regardless of the laws they have been sentenced under.
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. AAPP welcomes the release of all remaining political prisoners, 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. 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.
Note: AAPP is aware of the false, tenuous, or trumped-up criminal charges used to imprison political activists, journalists, students, and those in real or perceived opposition to past and current regimes. AAPP does not decide political prisoner status based on the laws individuals are arrested, charged, or sentenced under. Further, 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.
AAPP and FPPS Press Definition of a Political Prisoner
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and the Former Political Prisoners Society sponsored a joint seminar on August 17thand 18th that sought to establish a working definition of a political prisoner. The seminar received 50 attendees, including representatives from political parties and human right groups, solicitors, former political prisoners and delegates from FIDH and the International Centre for Transitional Justice. The following is the definition that was agreed upon by those in attendance at the seminar.
The Definition of a Political Prisoner
- Anyone who is arrested, detained, or imprisoned for political reasons under political charges or wrongfully under criminal and civil charges because of his or her perceived or known active role, perceived or known supporting role, or in association with activities promoting freedom, justice, equality, human rights, and civil and political rights, including ethnic rights, is defined as a political prisoner.
- The above definition relates to anyone who is arrested, detained, or imprisoned because of his or her perceived or known active role, perceived or known supporting role, or in association with political activities (including armed resistance but excluding terrorist activities), in forming organizations, both individually and collectively, making public speeches, expressing beliefs, organizing or initiating movements through writing, publishing, or distributing documents, or participating in peaceful demonstrations to express dissent and denunciation against the stature and activities of both the Union and state level executive, legislative, judicial, or other administrative bodies established under the constitution or under any previously existing law.
The seminar sought to create a unified definition of what it means to be a political prisoner. The need for a government agreed definition of this status is still as important as ever. Without this ratified definition, the existence of political prisoners can continue to be vehemently denied. Support for the discussion of this definition is extremely important to ensure the recognition of basic civil liberties and human rights for the people of Burma.
There is strong support for the drafting of this definition and a firm belief that its creation is the next essential step towards true political freedom and the recognition of basic civil liberties in Burma. AAPP, FPPS and our colleagues will continue to advocate for the discussion of this definition at a parliamentary level and for an official recognition of the existence of political prisoners in Burma.
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