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Sign a petition for the release of political prisoners

Human Rights Watch is urging you to sign a petition calling for the release of more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma. They include members of the political opposition, human rights defenders, labour activists, artists, journalists, internet bloggers, as well as Buddhist monks and nuns. Currently, there are 43 prisons holding political activists and over 50 labour camps where prisoners are forced into hard labour. One of the leading political prisoners is Zarganar, a famous comedian jailed for 34 years for criticising the junta's slow response to Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Last June, Human Rights Watch worked with creative agency JWT and launched "Behind Bars in Burma" in New York's Grand Central terminal, a one-day interactive art installation calling for the release of political prisoners: "The interactive installation represents a miniature Burmese prison complex, and as visitors approach, it turns out the cell bars are actually ballpoint pens. Visitors remove the pens to sign a petition calling on Burma's leaders to release the country's political prisoners." (This year, JWT has been honoured with six prestigious international advertising awards for this art installation campaign.) The online version of this petition is ongoing.

Recently, on 16 May, Burmese President Thein Sein declaired an "amnesty" to all convicted prisoners, that commutes death sentences to life imprisonment and reduces prison terms by one year. The amnesty decision came shortly after the UN secretary-general's Burma envoy, Vijay Nambiar, visited Burma from 11-13 May, stressing that political prisoners must be released. But the one-year reduction is an insult to political prisoners like Zarganar, sentenced to decades in prison. Out of 15,000 prisoners released for having less than one year to serve, only 47 are political prisoners. Some prison terms are in excess of 100 years.

"The government's gesture will be welcomed by a great many prisoners in Burma, but for the 2,100 political prisoners unjustly serving sentences of up to 65 years, the one-year reduction is a sick joke," said Human Rights Watch. "This is a pathetic response to international calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners."

Last week, the U.S. Campaign for Burma reports, seven female political prisoners started a hunger strike to protest against their unlawful detention and deplorable prison conditions. Dozens have joined the protest since then, with more expected to do so as well.

Sign the petition to free Burma's political prisoners.

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