Myanmar Junta commutes death sentences for post-coup prisoners
May 6, 2023

The Myanmar military junta has commuted the death sentences of 38 individuals as part of a recent amnesty for political prisoners. The move has been met with cautious optimism by human rights groups and activists who have been campaigning for an end to the use of the death penalty in the country.

The decision to commute the sentences was announced in a statement by the country’s human rights commission, which expressed its “deep delight” at the decision. The statement also welcomed the release of those who had been jailed for opposing the military coup that took place in February 2021.

Myanmar’s military seized power from the elected government in February 2021 and has since used brutal force against those opposed to its rule. The crackdown on protests has evolved into an armed uprising, with civilians joining People’s Defense Forces set up by the National Unity Government of elected legislators who were thrown out of office by the generals.

The military has branded its opponents as “terrorists,” and there are currently 112 post-coup prisoners on death row, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. According to Human Rights Watch, convictions in these courts are frequently based on confessions obtained by torture and other ill-treatment.

Last July, the military regime executed four prominent political activists, including a prominent ally of now-jailed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Dissidents are being tried behind closed doors in secretive military-run courts that lack transparency and often fail to uphold international due process and fair trial standards.

The use of the death penalty in Myanmar has been widely criticized by human rights groups and the international community. The decision to commute the sentences of 38 individuals is a small but positive step towards addressing this issue and respecting the human rights of political prisoners in the country.

However, the international community must continue to monitor the situation in Myanmar and press the military junta to respect the human rights of all people in the country, including the right to a fair trial and the abolition of the death penalty.

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