Human Rights Abuses:
The prevention of torture in Burma
Dr. Khin Saw Win wrote this article in support of a
campaign to free Min Ko Naing, a political prisoner in Burma who has
been tortured. For information about Min Ko Naing, search the
Amnesty International web site for "ASA 16/001/2001".
Torture is an instrument of oppression. Reports of widespread torture
were more commonly received from regions controlled by the military regime but undergoing
political unrest, armed conflicts, and other internal strife. Torture is
mainly used by the military authorities to gather information, to
incriminate civilians, to intimidate, and to isolate people from colleagues
or similarly minded antigovernment comrades.
Aside from the many physical sequelae of torture, the process of torture
is designed to destroy the humanity of its victims. Torture destroys the self
and the very foundations of stability. The person undergoing torture can
believe in nothing. The question of morality becomes irrelevant. Decisions
may become impossible choices.
Eradication of torture will require an undetermined amount of time and
resources. It is inevitably a long-term evolutionary process. The
essential requirements for eradication of torture in Burma are the
recognition of basic human rights and freedoms and political reform.
Clearly, there needs to be greater pressure exerted on the United Nations to take
more effective action against countries, like Burma, with poor human rights records. Further more, foreign policies need to be examined for
their direct or indirect contribution to the human rights problem. The
medical professionals have a special responsibility to not only
provide care to the survivors of torture, but to also document
human rights abuses.
Reliable documentation of human rights abuses and their physical and
psychological effects is crucial. Images highlighting the horror and atrocities of
torture should be brought to the attention of public,
media, and international communities quickly and effectively. This kind
of action is an effective instrument in combating torture and, in the
end, to bring change.
It is not utopian to think that such efforts can lead in the near
future to the elimination of inhuman torture in our
Dr Khin Saw Win (Alice)
This commentary is based on a posting Dr. Khin Saw Win
made in the soc.culture.burma newsgroup and the FreeBurma Yahoo! Group on 2001-01-12. The posting has been edited for inclusion on the Burma Watch
International Web site.