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POSTED FRI  7-APR-2000; 6:00AM


10 September 1998

C. Death in custody

27. The Special Rapporteur continues to receive reports indicating that
torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, in prisons and
interrogation centres continue to be a common practice. In addition,
sanitary conditions are critical, and there is a lack of medical
attention. Moreover, the authorities continue to refuse the
International Committee of the Red cross (ICRC) access to prisons and
places of detention. In these circumstances, the Special Rapporteur is
not surprised to continue to receive information to the effect that
several prisoners have died in prison, including several members or
sympathizers of the NLD.

28. Since June 1996, several NLD members or sympathizers have died in
jail as a result of torture and poor treatment.

29. In his report to the General Assembly (A/51/466, para. 77), the
Special Rapporteur reported on the death in custody on 22 June 1996 of
Mr. James Leander Nichols, who had been arrested in April 1996 for
illegal possession of communications equipment (telephones and fax
machines) and sentenced to three years imprisonment on 18 May 1996. He
had allegedly been deprived of sleep during long interrogations prior to
his death. Mr. Nichols was 65 years old and suffered from heart problems
and diabetes. The Myanmar authorities, in a press statement issued on 16
July 1996, denied that he was tortured and stated that he died from
natural causes, due to a stroke and a heart attack. However, the Special
Rapporteur has recently received additional information from a former
detainee who, in May 1996, was serving the final year of a seven-year
prison sentence in Insein Prison in a cell close to the one where Mr.
James Leander Nichols spent his last days. According to that prisoner,
Mr. Nichols had been interrogated by officers for six consecutive days.
Upon his arrival, he was reportedly forced to sit in a Poun-San position
- i.e., to sit cross-legged on the floor with his hands on his knees,
back straight and head bowed. During interrogation sessions he is said
to have been forced to stand up for hours. Each time, he is said to have
been taken away by officers with a hood over his head. Once he
reportedly came back to his cell at Insein Prison with swollen legs and
a puffed face after having been subjected to four days of interrogation.
Despite the fact that he was suffering form acute dysentery and
diabetes, he was allegedly not given either proper food or medicines.
His health is believed to have quickly deteriorated. The last time he
was reportedly seen by fellow inmates before being taken away by
officers, he had swollen legs, could not walk properly, and was
suffering from dysentery, vomiting and dizziness. It is not clear
whether an autopsy was performed. To date, authorities are thought not
to have satisfactorily provided a full, written account of events
leading up and surrounding his demise. Clearly, a full enquiry by an
independent body is called for in light of the new evidence.

30. It is also reported that U Thein Tin, a member of the Yangon
Township Organizing Committee of the NLD, died at Yangon General
Hospital on 18 February 1998, following physical and mental torture in
Insein Prison. U Thein Tin had been detained in Insein Prison since
March 1996. He was charged under section 10(a) of the 1975 State
Protection Law, which is designed to protect the country from the
dangers of those who wish to harm it. A writer by profession, U Thein
Tin was a former student leader during 1962-1963. He came to prominence
during Daw San Suu Kyi's house-arrest for his unwavering commitment and
management skills. He was well respected by both the leadership of the
NLD and the youth wing of the party. The State Peace and Development
Council (SPDC) claims that U Thein Tin died of blood cancer, according
to a statement. However, other sources said that U Thein Tin had been
tortured and his health had been deteriorating when he was finally
admitted to hospital. He was already dying when he was taken to
hospital, according to those sources, and the SPDC had long refused his
requests for proper medical care. A Myanmar governmental spokesman
confirmed that Thein Tin had died but denied that he had been poorly
treated. He said Thein Tin had even been given a pardon three days
before his death and released from his prison sentence because he had
liver cancer. Medically, Thein Tin had been suffering from liver
cirrhosis since 1982 and while he was serving his sentence on 3 December
1997, the prison medical authorities had transferred him to the Yangon
hospital, according to the spokesman. He also said that Thein Tin's
family had been allowed to pay him regular visits while he was in

31. Aung Kyaw Moe, 29 years old, a former student of Yangon Institute of
Technology, who had been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his
involvement in a December 1996 student demonstration, died in the prison
hospital on 23 May 1998 after being beaten by prison authorities,
following a hunger strike by political prisoners at the Thayawaddy
Prison, 200 kilometres north of Yangon. On 22 May, political prisoners
in Thayawaddy Prison staged a hunger strike to mark the eighth
anniversary of the 1990 elections, in which the National League for
Democracy (NLD) had won a landslide victory. The political prisoners
made two demands: that the ruling State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC) treat them as political prisoners, and that it enter into a
dialogue with the NLD to solve the country's problems peacefully.
However, the authorities, under instructions from the SPDC's Ministry of
Home Affairs, rejected their demands and warned the prisoners to stop
their hunger strike immediately. When they refused to do so, eight
political prisoners were beaten and seriously injured. Afterwards, the
family members of all the political prisoners at Thayawaddy Prison were
forbidden to visit in an attempt by the authorities to prevent
information about the incident from spreading.

32. The following two cases illustrate the severe physical and mental
suffering reported to have been inflicted by prison officials to two
former detainees:

(a) Thar Nyunt Oo, a leader of the student movement, was arrested in
September 1990 and sentenced by the Special Military Court to five years
imprisonment. He was detained at Insein Prison from September 1990 until
November 1991. He was reportedly interrogated during the first two
weeks, during which time he was confined to a small cell under
continuous strong light, the intensity of which would be increased if he
refused to answer a question. According to the information received, he
was deprived of sleep for 60 or 70 hours at a time, beaten and kicked,
and made to stand on his toes for hours at a time; meanwhile, his legs
were kept in irons with manacles around his ankles and an iron bar
between his legs. In 1991 Thar Nyunt Oo and other prisoners who had gone
on strike were said to have been placed in solitary confinement and kept
in leg irons. They were allegedly forced to stand with their upper
bodies bent forward for up to thirty hours. They were reportedly
prohibited from bathing for one month and were forced to cry and make
admissions of guilt. Thar Nyunt Oo was transferred to Thayet Prison in
November 1991 and then to Monywa Prison in December 1992. He was finally
released in November 1994 and resumed his political activities. He was
forced to flee to the border in December 1996;

(b) Aung Khaing, a graduate of Yangon Institute of Technology and
resident of Prone Township, was arrested in November 1990 for his role
in the pro-democracy movement and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
His sentence was commuted to 10 years shortly after General Than Shwe
was installed in 1992 as head of the State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC). Aung Khaing was released from prison in June 1998.
During his eight years of detention in Insein Prison and Taungoo Prison
in Pegu Division, Aung Khaing was reportedly subjected to severe
beatings by prison warders, and as a result he developed psychological
problems. Despite several requests from his family, the prison
authorities refused to provide him with proper medical assistance; but
instead, he was put in a solitary confinement cell that was designated
for leper prisoners until his release in June 1998.

B. Recommendations

60. Given the refusal of the Government of Myanmar to give effect to the
resolutions of both the General Assembly and the Commission on Human
Rights, the Special Rapporteur feels constrained to repeat the
recommendations made in paragraphs 77-97 of his report to the Commission
on Human Rights earlier this year (E/CN.4/1998/70).

61. Further, the Special Rapporteur recommends that an independent
inquiry be held into the circumstances of the deaths of Mr. Nichols in
June 1996 and of U Thein in February 1998, while detained in Insein
Prison, in the light of any evidence that may be gathered from fellow
prisoners and prison officials and, indeed any other persons, so that
action may be taken against the individuals who may have been
responsible for their deaths or harsh treatment.

62. Urgent steps should be taken by all governmental authorities to put
a stop, once and for all, to forced labour and portering and to comply
fully with the obligations of Myanmar under ILO Convention No. 29.

63. The Government of Myanmar should, with the least possible delay,
implement the recommendations that the Commission of Inquiry of the ILO
recently made.
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