Myanmar: Rights Commission says use of torture in prison riot breached human rights

The use of torture during last month’s prison riot in southern Myanmar was a violation of human rights, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC statement comes after commission officials last month made an inspection tour of Kawthaung Prison in Taninthayi Region, where the riot occurred on September 13. One prisoner was killed and seven others were injured during the incident.

According to the statement, the riot was supposedly sparked after prison officials hit three inmates with batons for quarrelling in a cell and then other prisoners shouted at them to stop the beatings.

The prison staff used a loudspeaker in an attempt to prevent a riot, but the inmates tore down the roofs and doors of the prison trying to get out and burned the clothing and bed sheets of some prison staff. When the situation got out of control, prison officials fired on the crowd and eight prisoners were injured. Later, one prisoner died of head injuries, said the statement.

It also said that the Correctional Department still used the 1894 Prisons Act for its prison rules and manuals. But instead of taking action against the three quarrelling prisoners according to prison rules, prison staff punished the inmates by torturing them, which violated their human rights. Officials concerned should therefore face action while new prison laws and rules that suit today’s criminal justice system and environment should be adopted, the statement added.

The commission also commented on the prison’s failure to issue correct news about the incident in time, needlessly causing concern for the families of prisoners and the public.