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Myanmar (Burma)
17.06.21
Urgent Interventions

Myanmar: Arbitrary arrest of five lawyers

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

MMR 004 / 0621 / OBS 071
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment /
At risk of torture
Myanmar
June 17, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Myanmar.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has received information about a wave of arbitrary arrests targeting lawyers in Myanmar. According to the information received, between May 24 and June 10, 2021, the military junta’s security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained five lawyers who provided legal defense to protesters and other individuals arrested following the February 1 coup d’état. Four of the five lawyers have been charged with “incitement”, under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code[1].

On June 10, 2021, Nilar and Hpone Myat Thu, were arrested in the border town of Myawaddy, Kayin [Karen] State, while they were attempting to cross into Thailand. They appeared in court a day after their arrest and, at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, were being held at Myawaddy’s central police station. The next hearing in their case is scheduled for June 25, 2021. The “incitement” charges against the two stem from their defense of political prisoners, including Kayin State’s ousted Chief Minister Nan Khin Htwe Myint and Hpa-An Technical High School Principal Cho Yu Mon, who were arrested after the February 1 coup for taking part in peaceful anti-junta protests.

On June 2, 2021, Thet Htun Oo, a pro-bono lawyer and Central Executive Committee member of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar, was arrested while in court inside Myitkyina Prison, Kachin State, where he was assisting individuals who had been detained under Article 505(a). The charges against him are not known at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.

In the evening of May 27, 2021, Ayeyar Lin Htut was abducted from Hinthada District Court by SAC Terrorist Group[2] and charged with incitement under Article 505(a). At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, she was being held in Hinthada Prison in Ayeyarwady [Irrawaddy] Region. Ayeyar Lin Htut was representing political prisoners arrested following the coup. On May 24, 2021, Thein Hlaing Tun, who represented ousted Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung, was arrested while he tried to meet with his client at a special court in Naypyidaw. Thein Hlaing Tun was charged under Article 505(a).

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of lawyers, which is inconsistent with international human rights standards, including the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers,[3] which guarantee the protection of lawyers in the course of their work and prohibit their prosecution in relation to cases they defend. The Observatory expresses grave concern over the high risk of torture, enforced disappearance, and summary execution the five lawyers are facing while in custody. The Observatory remains concerned by the ongoing actions by the military junta to curtail fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and to a fair trial.

The Observatory urges the military junta of Myanmar to immediately and unconditionally release the five lawyers and all other human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained. The Observatory also urge the military junta to immediately halt the ongoing repression of civil society.

Action requested:

Please write to the members of the military junta asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Thein Hlaing Tun, Ayeyar Lin Htut, Thet Htun Oo, Nilar, and Hpone Myat Thu;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Thein Hlaing Tun, Ayeyar Lin Htut, Thet Htun Oo, Nilar, and Hpone Myat Thu, as their detention is arbitrary and only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Thein Hlaing Tun, Ayeyar Lin Htut, Thet Htun Oo, Nilar, and Hpone Myat Thu, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities and exercise their rights without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

· Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services; Twitter: @CINCDS

· H.E. Mr. Myint Thu, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email: mission@myanmargeneva.org

· H.E. Mr. Soe Lynn Han, Permanent Representative to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium; Email: mebrussels@skynet.be

Please write to international and regional organisations, asking them to:

i. Urge the members of the military junta to immediately disclose the fate of the lawyers Thein Hlaing Tun, Ayeyar Lin Htut, Thet Htun Oo, Nilar, and Hpone Myat Thu as well as to guarantee their physical integrity and psychological well-being;

ii. Urge the members of the military junta, bilaterally and in multilateral fora, to halt the ongoing crackdown against civil society, to observe an immediate ceasefire, and to respect human rights in Myanmar.

Addresses:

· Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Twitter: @antonioguterres

· Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org, Twitter: @mbachelet

· Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener, United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Myanmar, Twitter: @SchranerBurgen1

· Mr. Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of the Association of South East Asian Nations, Email: public@asean.org, Twitter: @ASEAN

· Mr. Josep Borrell, European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Email: cab-borrell-fontelles-contact@ec.europa.eu, Twitter: @JosepBorrellF

Please also write to the diplomatic missions of Myanmar in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, June 17, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39

[1] The State Administration Council (SAC) inserted a new provision, Article 505(a), which has been used to punish comments regarding the illegitimacy of the coup or the military government, among others. The new section criminalises comments that “cause fear,” spread “false news, [or] agitates directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee.” Violation of the section is punishable by up to three years in prison.

[2] The SAC has been declared as “Terrorist Group” by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a legislative formation representing a group of National League for Democracy lawmakers, for its atrocities and acts of terrorism, in contravention of the Counter Terrorism Law, committed against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the citizens.

[3] Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba; August 27 to September 7, 1990: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Profe...

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