Extreme Measures: Torture and Ill Treatment in Burma since the 2010 Elections

This report documents the Government of Burma’s torture and ill treatment against its own people since the 2010 elections. This report demonstrates that the Burmese government continues to commit these abuses despite being bound to international human rights treaties and norms. Furthermore, the lack of domestic legislation prohibiting torture, the absence of an independent judiciary, and an ineffective Human Rights Commission contribute to a climate where torture and ill treatment are perpetrated with impunity.

From January to December 2011 alone, ND-Burma’s member organizations documented 371 cases of human rights violation across the country of which 83 cases, or 22 percent constitute torture and ill treatment. Torture and ill treatment in Burma takes place in two distinct places: (1) in detention centers where political prisoners are interrogated and held, and (2) in ethnic nationality areas where the Burmese military is present.

Torture of political prisoners generally takes place shortly after an individual is arrested during interrogations. It can, along with ill treatment, continue for years – even decades – while political prisoners serve inordinately long sentences

In ethnic nationality areas torture seldom takes place in formal detention centers but is meted out in military bases or remote rural villages. Shan State and Kachin State are particularly hard hit. Evidence gathered by ND-Burma shows that torture and ill-treatment in ethnic areas often takes place within the context of other human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, forced labor, forced portering, confiscation of property, restriction of movement, and sexual violence.

The report makes a number of recommendations to the Government of Burma and the international community. Chief among these are calls for the adoption of legislation guaranteeing basic rights for the people of Burma, particularly the internationally recognized right to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and laws that ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes face justice. There are also calls for more education, training and public awareness about torture in order to prevent future violations as well as calls to institute safeguards and programs that guarantee that victims have available, credible, accessible remedies to deal with torture should it take place. This report also raises concerns regarding the new National Human Rights Commission, including its lack of full independence, its inability to investigate crimes committed by the military, and its failure to comply fully with best practices for national human rights commissions as described in the Paris Principles.

Torture and ill treatment have a ripple effect, with potentially long lasting negative consequences for individuals, families and society as a whole. This report serves as a reminder to the Government of Burma and the international community that significant hurdles remain for Burma to emerge as a functioning democracy that respects the Rule of Law and the rights of the people of Burma, particularly ethnic nationalities.

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