The ICJ today condemned the conviction of six human rights defenders after an unfair trial lasting less than five minutes. The six were charged in connection with their participation in a peaceful demonstration against the fatal shooting of a protestor in Letpadaung.
They were sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour.
“Under both international and Myanmar law, a fair trial means independent judges, the need for evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and due process. All of these requirements were ignored in the case of these accused, who must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“Instead of prosecuting peaceful protestors, the Myanmar government must hold those responsible for the killing in Letpadaung accountable and provide justice,” he added.
The ICJ attended today’s hearing at the Yangon Dagon Township Court of Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, U Nay Myo Zin, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw Lay Lay @ Daw San San Win and U Than Swe, who were sentenced for violating Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, as well as a series of offences under the Penal Code.
These offences include assaulting or preventing a public servant from the discharge of his duty (Section 353); rioting (Section 147); publishing or circulating information which may cause public fear or alarm and may incite persons to commit offences “against the State or against the public tranquility” (Section 505(b)).
It is unclear whether an appeal will be filed, but the ICJ understands that the accused’s appeal in this case would be highly unlikely to succeed.
The ICJ has observed and documented the case’s pre-trial and trial phases and considers that they grossly violate international standards of fair trial.
Bail has been denied to all the accused after hearings that last less than five minutes. The accused have also complained to the ICJ about poor prison conditions, non-nutritious or edible food, dirty water and no access to radio or television.
These do not comply with international standards, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The ICJ urges the Myanmar authorities to drop all charges against the accused and take effective measures to ensure that such violations do not reoccur in this or future cases.
The ICJ calls upon the Myanmar authorities and the judiciary to take measures, in law and practice, to ensure that the judiciary is able to decide cases independently and impartially as a separate and co-equal branch of the government.
The accused were arrested and detained on 30 December 2014 for the lawful exercise of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
They protested in front of the Chinese embassy in Yangon calling on the Myanmar authorities to carry out an urgent and impartial investigation into the death of Daw Khin Win.
She was shot dead on 22 December 2014 while demonstrating against illegal land confiscations and forced evictions over the Letpadaung copper mine in Monywa.
There has been so far no arrest or prosecution for the use of incendiary weapons as a crowd-control agent in Letpadaung in 2012 or for the shooting of Daw Khin Win last year.
In Bangkok: Sam Zarifi, ICJ Regional Director, Asia-Pacific Programme, e: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
In Myanmar: Vani Sathisan, ICJ International Legal Adviser, t: +95 9250800301 ; e: vani.sathisan(a)icj.org