Last July, four opponents of the coup were executed and more than 100 people are on death row for political reasons.
Myanmar’s military has commuted the death sentences of 38 people as part of this week’s amnesty for more than 2,000 political prisoners.
In a short statement published Friday in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, the country’s human rights commission said it was “deeply pleased” with the decision to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment and also the release of those imprisoned for resisting the coup.
“The Commission hopes that similar positive steps will continue in the future,” the statement said.
It did not address the circumstances of the prisoners whose sentences were commuted.
Myanmar’s military, which took power from the elected government in February 2021, has used brutal force against those opposed to the regime in a fruitless attempt to quell mass protests that have turned into an armed insurgency.
Many civilians have joined the People’s Defense Forces created by the national unity government of elected legislators removed from office by the generals, and some are working with long-established ethnic armed groups.
The military has labeled its opponents as “terrorists” and there are currently 112 post-coup prisoners on death row, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has monitored the crackdown.
In July last year, the generals caused shock worldwide by executing four prominent political activists, the country’s first time using the death penalty since the 1980s. Among the four men killed was Phyo Zeya Thaw, a prominent ally of now-imprisoned civilian leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Dissidents are tried behind closed doors in secretive, military-run courts that human rights groups say fail to meet international standards for due process and due process.
According to Human Rights Watch, convictions are often based on confessions obtained through torture and other ill-treatment, including frequent beatings.
Last November, a military tribunal sentenced seven university students to hang for the shooting death of a former military officer in Yangon. That same month, three other men were sentenced to death for the murder of a local official.
In a statement afterwards, Human Rights Watch called for those sentences to be commuted.