Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Rachel Goldwyn on BBC Breakfast News
"Insein jail where I was, was very seriously overcrowded."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 10:54 GMT
Fears for Britons jailed abroad
Rachel Goldwyn Rachel Goldwyn: "I was very lucky"

Freed democracy campaigner Rachel Goldwyn is backing a campaign highlighting the plight of hundreds of Britons serving sentences in overcrowded and unhygienic prisons overseas.

Charity Prisoners Abroad says 37 Britons have died in detention overseas in the last five years, including a 33-year-old drug smuggler who was chained to a hospital bed in Sri Lanka.

My seven years were decided before I even entered that courtroom
Rachel Goldwyn
It says Britons are suffering in inhumane conditions, denied access to basic rights and even fair trials.

Ms Goldwyn, 28, who was freed after serving two months of a seven-year sentence for singing a pro-democracy song in Burmese capital Rangoon, says she was "lucky" to escape a worse fate.

She told BBC One's Breakfast News: "In Burma there is the...difficulty that there is no real legal system within which you can operate.

"You don't really have any certainty about whether you are going to have a trial, or if there is a fair trial.

"My seven years were decided before I even entered that courtroom."

'Seriously overcrowded'

A second Briton. James Mawdsley, 26, of Lancashire, is still imprisoned in Burma - serving a 17-year sentence for entering the country illegally and carrying pro-democracy leaflets.

James Mawdsley James Mawdsley is still in Burmese jail
Ms Goldwyn said: "I was very fortunate that I had a lot of media attention, the world was looking at what was going on, so I was in a privileged position vis a vis the other prisoners there.

"But Insein jail where I was, was very seriously overcrowded.

"The women there that I witnessed were living in very cramped conditions.

"The cell next to me had about 160 women in it with about half a metre space to sleep in at night width wise, they had not enough water to wash which caused a lot of sanitary problems.

"We had a lot of problems trying to understand each other there, and obviously there are big cultural differences too.

Struggle to survive

Prisoners Abroad currently supports about 1,200 British prisoners in 76 countries helping with tasks like finding a lawyer and providing essential medicines, food and clothing.

Charity director Carlo Laurenzi said: "Prisoners are literally struggling to survive and their problems are basic ones: access to adequate food, water and medical care."

The group has highlighted the case of Londoner Glen Bridger who died in July, five years into a life sentence at Welikada prison, in Colombo, for smuggling heroin and hashish hidden in his shoes into the capital's airport.

He died of a treatable stomach condition in a nearby general hospital where he was handcuffed despite being weak and emaciated.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
17 Sep 99 |  UK
Jailed for their beliefs
01 Nov 99 |  UK
Burma frees British activist
08 Aug 98 |  Burma
Special report: Burma
02 Sep 99 |  UK
British activist arrested in Burma
08 Nov 99 |  UK
Activist plans new Burma mission
08 Nov 99 |  UK
Activist's 'betrayal' of Burma condemned

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories