HRW Calls For Revisions of Burma’s Peaceful Assembly Law

Posted March 15th, 2012 at 12:55 am (UTC-5)
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A leading human-rights group says Burma's new law on peaceful assembly falls far short of international standards.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says conditions under which authorities can prohibit demonstrations should be narrowed and that prison terms for violations of the law should be dropped. A statement from the group is urging the government to consult with international organizations as it draws up regulations for enforcement of the law.

Burma's parliament approved the law late last year, ending an outright ban on demonstrations as part of a series of reforms that have won widespread international approval. But Human Rights Watch says Burma should not be credited for allowing some freedom just because none existed before.

The new law requires anyone planning a demonstration to seek permission from the local police chief five days in advance. Police must respond at least 48 hours before the planned protest and explain their reasons if a permit is denied.

But Human Rights Watch notes the law retains harsh provisions, requiring a permit for any public gathering of more than one person to express their opinions. Any group wishing to shout slogans must submit the slogans for approval in advance.

Anyone who holds an assembly without permission can be jailed for one year, while sentences up to six months are possible for making a speech containing false information or saying anything that could hurt the state.

Human Rights Watch says that under international law, legal restrictions on basic freedoms should be clearly and narrowly identified, strictly necessary and proportionate.