As Burma’s new Parliament convenes for its first session, today sees the publication of a judgment from a United Nations court in which the court declared that in successive cases before it, the state of Burma had breached its obligations in international law and where citizens had been denied of their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The United Nations Working Group of Arbitrary Detention took the unusual step of not only looking at the facts of the case before of it of Ko Mya Aye, but of reminding the State of Burma of its obligations under international law and highlighting the fact that in twelve previous judgments of this court, the court had pointed out Burma’s illegal conduct towards its citizens.
The political prisoner of conscience in the case was Ko Mya Aye. His case was brought by Sappho Dias, Adam Zellick and Jared Genser who are all members of the Burma Justice Committee. Ko Mya Aye is a leading member of the pro-democracy group known in Burma as the “88 Generation”. Following the peaceful protests of monks and citizens, Ko Mya Aye was arrested at his home on 22nd August 2007. He was held in communicado and denied contact with his immediate family and access to a lawyer. On 11th November 2008, a domestic court in Burma sentenced Ko Mya Aye to imprisonment of 65 years and 6 months.
The State of Burma defended the case before the UN and asserted that the imprisonment was lawful as the sentence had been imposed for alleged breaches of the Contempt of Court Act and for alleged breaches of the Electronic Transactions Act. The facts constituting the contempt were not spelled out; however, it was Ko Mya Aye’s use of the internet to criticise the economic state of Burma which apparently amounted to a “crime”. The State of Burma failed to mention in their case that lawyers who had represented Ko Mya Aye, U Khin Maung Shein and U Aung Thein were themselves sent to jail on 8th November 2008 for contempt of court.
Ko Mya Aye is now aged 44 years. He is suffering from heart disease but has no access to a cardiologist. Moreover, he is deliberately being held in a prison which is over 500 miles away from Rangoon, making it difficult for his wife and children to visit him. There are serious concerns for the harm being done to his health by the State of Burma.
The court has declared this imprisonment to be decisively arbitrary and to be in breach of the rights accorded to all citizens under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The court took the further step of reminding the Burmese authorities that in repeated cases before it, the court had expressed its view that the Burmese Government was not compliant with its obligations under international law and that no revision and review of these illegal detentions had taken place. The court urged immediate compliance.
Sappho Dias, Chairman of the Burma Justice Committee said:
“On repeated occasions we have condemned the Burmese Military Regime for its sustained campaign of illegal acts against its own citizens. We are fortified that an international court has recognised these illegal acts. We call on the international community not to ignore the plight of the ordinary citizens of Burma. The Rule of Law should be sacrosanct. Its breach in one corner of the world threatens the stability of the entire world. In an increasingly global world the international community must take note and react wherever there is lawlessness.
We support the call of the pro-democracy leaders in Burma, in particular Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the restoration of the rule of law. Citizens are entitled to expect that their government will comply with international law ”.
Wai Hnin, the daughter of Ko Mya Aye, now working for Burma Campaign UK said:
“I am pleased that the UN court has held my father’s detention to be arbitrary. I ask the Burmese regime to release my father immediately, in accordance with what the court has said. I want, at this time, to say that there are 2200 other political prisoners of conscience being held in Burma. These persons too must be released by the regime”.Tags: Burma Justice Committee, Political Prisoners, United Nations, United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
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