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), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Burma.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Htin Kyaw, leader of the Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF), a community-based organisation that advocates against land-grabbing and other human rights violations, as well as of MDCF members Messrs. Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win.
According to the information received, since June 24, 2014, Mr. Htin Kyaw has received eight sentences in eight courts under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code related to a series of peaceful protests he participated in between February and May 2014, including to denounce forced evictions. These sentences total seven and a half years of imprisonment. The latest sentence was handed down by the Dagon Seikkan Court on August 19, 2014.
Moreover, Messrs. Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win have received sentences totalling one year and six months for their participation in these protests. They received sentences under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code from the Mingala Taungnyunt Township Court on June 24, the Tamwe Township Court on July 9, and the Bahan Township Court on July 15.
Mr. Htin Kyaw has also received two three-month sentences under Section 18 of the Act on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession for protests related to land rights. On June 4, 2014, the Kyauktada Township Court sentenced him under Section 18 for protesting forced evictions in Hlegu Township. On July 9, 2014, the Bahan Township Court sentenced him under Section 18, after the authorities considered his April 3 attempt to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss a land eviction case as an unauthorised protest.
Mr. Htin Kyaw was arrested on May 5, 2014, and is currently being held in Rangoon’s Insein Prison. He still faces trials in four courts across Rangoon. Messrs. Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win were arrested on May 9, 2014.
The Observatory strongly denounces the detention and judicial harassment of Messrs. Htin Kyaw, Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win, which merely aim at sanctioning their peaceful human rights activities, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
The Observatory also urges the Burmese authorities to implement the decision of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, issued in November 2013 and calling for the release of Mr. Htin Kyaw after concluding that his detention was arbitrary (See background information).
Mr. Ko Htin Kyaw was first arrested and detained in 2007 for leading demonstrations calling for improved health care and education, lower prices for basic food commodities, and religious freedom.
On November 17, 2008, he was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison and then released under an amnesty in January 2012.
He continued his activism and staged a peaceful protest outside the Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Court to denounce the seizure of part of the land of three community members by a businessman, on July 30, 2013.
On August 2, 2013, three days after the demonstration, he was summoned to the police station “for a discussion”. Once on the spot, he was charged under Article 505(c) of the Penal Code for “insulting the State” and immediately sent to court, which sanctioned his arrest.
In October and November 2013, courts in various jurisdictions sentenced him to at least 33 months in jail.
In November 2013, the UN WGAD issued its decision calling for the release of Mr. Htin Kyaw after concluding that his detention was arbitrary as the latter had exercised his “right to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of association” by engaging in a peaceful protest against the eviction of some people from their lands. The UN WGAD had also found on that occasion that the Act on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession as well as Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code “fall below the standards of international human rights law, offending in particular articles 9, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
On December 11, 2013, Mr. Htin Kyaw was released under a presidential amnesty but the authorities re-arrested him the same day on sedition charges. He was eventually released under another presidential amnesty on December 31, 2013.
Please write to the authorities of Burma, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Htin Kyaw, Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win as well as of all human rights defenders in Burma;
ii. Release Messrs. Htin Kyaw, Tin Maung Kyi and Zaw Win 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 acts of any acts of harassment, including at judicial level, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Burma;
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”;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ratify international and regional human rights instruments.
· 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
· Maj Gen Zaw Win, 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