Myanmar (ex-Burma): Sentencing of Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung
By World Organisation Against Torture
October 2, 2014
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Burma/Myanmar.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, a 75-year old Rohingya human rights defender in Arakan/Rakhine State.
According to the information received, on September 26, 2014, Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung was sentenced by the Sittwe District Court to one year and six months in prison on charges of rioting (Article 147 of the Criminal Code) in connection with a protest held on April 26, 2013, at Thetkalpyin IDP camp in Sittwe Township. However, Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung was not present during the protest and had, in fact, tried to contact camp leaders in order to advise them to keep the demonstration peaceful (see background information).
The Sittwe District Court dropped all other charges, including “injuring a civil servant, interfering with his official duties” (Article 333 of the Criminal Code).
Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung remains detained in Sittwe Prison.
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana, who repeatedly called for Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung’s release, described him as a prisoner of conscience and said his detention was arbitrary. Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung suffers from hypertension and stomach problems that require regular medication.
The Observatory deplores the sentencing and continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, which seem aimed at sanctioning his peaceful human rights activities.
In 1986, Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung was imprisoned for two years for writing an appeal to the authorities on behalf of local farmers whose land had been confiscated. In 1990, he was arrested during a crackdown on Rohingya activists and spent the next 10 years in jail. In June 2012, Government authorities detained him, along with several other Rohingya aid workers, for his alleged involvement in the sectarian unrest that hit Arakan State. He was released in August 2012.
Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung was re-arrested on July 15, 2013 by police officers in Sittwe Township. He was arbitrarily detained without charges at Sittwe Police Station No. 1 and denied access to his family and lawyers.
On July 31, 2013, Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung appeared before the Sittwe District Court to answer charges of inciting a protest against a government-led exercise to collect population data on April 26, 2013 at Thetkalpyin Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Sittwe Township.
On April 26, 2013, the local government of Arakan/Rakhine State undertook a survey of Muslim IDPs in Sittwe Township in order to provide the authorities with population data. The authorities required Muslim Rohingya to be recorded as “Bengalis”, a derogatory term that the government routinely uses to describe Rohingya.
After some members of the community contested being called “Bengali”, violence ensued. Clashes between Rohingya IDPs and immigration officials during the protests forced the authorities to suspend the registration process.
The April 26-related events have since been used as a pretext to falsely prosecute Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung.
Please write to the authorities of Burma, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, as well as of all human rights defenders in Burma/Myanmar;
ii. Release Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including judicial harassment, against Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung as well as against all human rights defenders in Burma/Myanmar;
iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its:
- Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
- Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
· U Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, President Office, Office No.18, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: + 95 1 652 624
· Lt. Gen Ko Ko, Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: +95 67 412 439
· U Win Mra, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, 27 Pyay Road, Hline Township, Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar; Fax: +95-1-659668
· Dr. Tun Shin, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Office No. 25, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106
· U Tun Tun Oo, Chief Justice, Office of the Supreme Court, Office No. 24, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: + 95 67 404 059
· U Kyaw Kyaw Htun, Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208
· H.E. Mr. Maung Wai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 47, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 732 89 19, +41 22 732 73 77, Email: email@example.com
· Embassy of Myanmar in Brussels, Boulevard Général Wahis 9, 1030 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)32 2 705 50 48, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Burma in your respective countries.