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Burma: AHRC Urges Bail for Japanese National, Reinvestigation of Partner’s Death in Custody

By Asian Human Rights Commission  •  October 31, 2012

The Asian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday called for the release on bail of the partner of a young woman who died in custody in Burma during March, and urged that a new investigation be opened into the officials responsible for her death.

“According to news reports, Namase Motohiko has repeatedly applied for bail because he is suffering from clinical depression and diabetes, but has repeatedly had his requests denied,” Bijo Francis, acting executive director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group said.

The Irrawaddy website reported on Monday that the lawyer for 52-year-old Namase, a Japanese national accused of illegal land transactions in his partner’s name, said that she had repeatedly applied for bail without success since his detention in May. It added that Namase is being treated in the hospital of Burma’s central prison.

“Under section 497(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court has the power to grant the sick and infirm bail, and the only reason that we can see that he would not have obtained it in this case is that powerful persons want to keep him locked up and shut up, because he was very outspoken about his partner’s death,” Francis argued.

“The case requires high-level intervention to see that the accused is allowed out on bail while he is being prosecuted, and furthermore, that a new investigation is conducted into the death in custody,” he urged.

Namase’s partner, 20-year-old Nan Woh Phan, fell from the fifth floor of the Bureau of Special Investigation building on March 2 during repeated interrogation and alleged psychological torture over land transactions.

In a statement issued in July (AHRC-STM-124-2012), the AHRC expressed concern that whereas the officials involved seemed to be moving fast to excuse those responsible for Nan Woh Phan’s death, they had also lodged charges under antiquated emergency legislation to hold her partner in custody.

Subsequently, five officials named as departmental officer U Than Aye, investigators U San Win Myint and Daw Khin Maw Oo, and deputy investigators U Kyaw Kyaw Maung and Daw Win Win Naing were exonerated of criminal responsibility for the young woman’s death, and made liable only for departmental disciplinary sanctions.

“That these officials have pretty much been let off the hook is completely unsatisfactory,” Francis observed.

“The AHRC has already pointed out that the methods of interrogation used on this young woman could constitute torture under international law, and therefore, they ought to be subject to criminal investigations to hold them duly accountable,” he said.

“In any circumstances, what is beyond a doubt is that Nan Woh Phan died in custody, and her custodians are liable for that death,” Francis concluded.

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This post is in: Press Release

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