Myanmar (Burma)
30.01.17
Urgent Interventions

Investigate murder of lawyer Ko Ni, take measures to protect human rights defenders

Paris-Geneva-Bangkok, January 30, 2017 - The Burmese Government mustimmediately conduct a swift, thorough, and impartial investigation into themurder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and member of the ruling NationalLeague for Democracy (NLD) party, and bring those responsible for his death tojustice, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCTpartnership) and the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) saidtoday.

With the murder of Ko Ni, Burmaloses an important voice of moderation and a courageous advocate for religioustolerance and the rule of law. The NLD-led Government must quickly get to thebottom of this appalling murder to show that it is serious about combatingrampant impunity and religious intolerance,” said FIDHPresident Dimitris Christopoulos.

On January29, 2017, Ko Ni, 65, was fatally shot in the head at point-blank rangeoutside Rangoon International Airport. The suspected gunman was later arrested and detained for questioning by police. Ko Ni hadjust returned from Indonesia, where he had joined a BurmeseGovernment-organized trip to discuss democracy and conflict resolution. Theprogram included a panel discussion about religious violence in Burma’s RakhineState.

In June2016, Ko Ni played a crucial role in the establishment of the Muslim Lawyers’Association, an organisation aimed at providing legal assistance to members ofMuslim communities in Burma.

The tragic death of Ko Ni must notbecome the latest case of an unsolved death of a human rights defender inBurma. Authorities must deliver justice in this case and those of all otherslain human rights defenders and take all necessary measures to provide protectionfor human rights defenders at risk,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

The murderof Ko Ni is the latest in a series of killings targeting Burmese human rightsdefenders that have gone unpunished over the last three years.

On June 4,2014, San Tun, a 47-year-old land and environmental rights defender andlocal NLD leader in Hopong Township, Shan State, was shot and killed after twounidentified men abducted him from his home. San Tun had assisted local farmersto petition authorities for the return of their land that had been seized bythe Burma military (Tatmadaw).

On October4, 2014, Aung Kyaw Naing, better known as “Par Gyi”, a 49-year-oldfreelance journalist, was killed while in military custody after being detainedby Tatmadaw soldiers in Mon State’sKyaikmaraw Township. Aung Kyaw Naing had regularly reported on ethnic issuesalong the Burma-Thai border and contributed to various Rangoon-basednewspapers.

On July 2,2015, Johnny, a 51-year-old Karen land rights defender and NLD Chairmanin Kawthinshu Village, Hpa-an Township, Karen State, was shot dead by unknownassailants in front of his house in Eindea Village, Hpa-an Township. Johnny hadhelped local villagers in several land grabbing cases.

On November19, 2016, Chit Pandaing, better known as “Eh Paw Tel”, a 22-year-oldKaren woman human rights defender working with the Mine Advisory Group (MAG),was stabbed to death by an unidentified individual in Dawei Town, TenasserimRegion. Chit Pandaing strongly advocated against land confiscation and thenegative environmental impacts of mining in Dawei and other Townships inTenasserim Region.

On December13, 2016, the body of Soe Moe Tun, a 35-year-old journalist with the Eleven Media Group, was found in Monywa,Sagaing Region. Wounds on his head and an apparent fractured skull led policeto believe Soe Moe Tun had been beaten to death with a blunt object. Soe MoeTun was known for his investigative work on illegal logging and timbersmuggling in several areas of Sagaing Region, including Monywa and SagaingTownships.

Althoughauthorities launched investigations into the above-mentioned cases, no one hasever been held accountable for any of the killings.

Ko Ni’s assassination, if unaddressed, will have serious impacts onhuman security in Burma. The international community must act now to ensure theBurmese Government reverses the alarming trend exemplified by this crime,” said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDHSecretary-General Debbie Stothard.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Theobjective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

ALTSEAN-Burma is FIDH’s member organisation for Burma.

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