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Burma: Arrest Warrants Issued Against Messrs. Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin

By Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders  •  June 24, 2013

MMR 001 / 0613 / OBS 055
Imminent risk of arbitrary arrest /
Judicial harassment

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

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the issue of arrest warrants against Messrs. Moe Thway, a member of Generation Wave Youth Force, a network of human rights defenders that campaigns for civil and political rights, including the signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by Burma, and that campaigns against the Letpadaung copper mine project, and have brought the campaign to national attention, as well as Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin, members of Yangon People Service Network, which campaigns for the respect of rule of law and democracy in Burma and has been involved in the campaign against the Letpadaung project.

According to the information received, on June 13, 2013, the Monywa Court issued arrest warrants against Messrs. Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin under Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code on “offences against the State or against public tranquillity”. These arrest warrants are reportedly linked to statements the three human rights defenders had made about the Letpadaung copper mine project, a joint venture between the Burmese military’s Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company.

On June 15, 2013, Mr. Moe Thway received a phone call from Lieutenant Khin Zaw Latt, Deputy Township Police Commander from the Monywa Police Station 1, who had requested the court to issue the arrest warrants and who summoned the three human rights defenders to appear at Monywa Police Station 1. In the morning of June 23, Lieutenant Khin Zaw Latt travelled to Rangoon and went to Mr. Wai Lu’s house with Rangoon police and Special Branch officers. Mr. Wai Lu was not present. Special Branch officers remain posted at his house since then.

The Letpadaung copper mining project has displaced farming families in 26 villages from their land, with more than 7,000 acres confiscated in 2010. In 2012, peaceful protests began against the project and were heavily repressed by the autorities. In November 2012, the police used smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, injuring dozens of demonstrators, including monks, and triggering a national outcry. Activists have been facing harassment since protest began. On April 25, 2013, villagers in the Letpadaung area tried to plough their fields but were prohibited by police from entering pursuant to an order issued under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code[1]. It is reported that the police opened fire on the crowd and Ko Soe Thu and U Maung San, two villagers, were arrested along with U Aung Soe, a member of Yangon People’s Support Network. On June 1, 2013, the District Court of Shwebo sentenced U Aung Soe to 18 months in prison, Ko Soe Thu and U Maung San to six months imprisonment in total disregard of their right to due process of law, after having been detained incommunicado during 30 days[2].  Warrants were also issued for the arrests of eight other human rights defenders and villagers on charges of inciting protests, including six members of the Yangon People’s Support Network: Ko Aung SoeBa HtooThar KyiKo LattThaw Zin and Ko Thu. The other two persons are Han Win Aung, a member of the Political Prisoners Families’ Beneficial Network, and Thaung Taik Oo, a member the Yangon Institute of Technology Students Union.  On May 8, 2013, because villagers had become afraid of police raids, the three human rights defenders, along with Mr. Aung Thu, a member of the 1988 Student Generation, went to Monywa to calm tensions. They informed police of their intentions in this regard. While they were there, some local reporters interviewed Messrs. Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin. During the interview, observed by police from the Special Branch, the human rights defenders gave their opinions on the use of Section 144 to keep the villagers from ploughing their fields, opinions which were perceived as damaging the police and government’s credibility.

The Observatory condemns the arrest warrants and judicial harassment against the three above-mentioned human rights defenders, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning their peaceful human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Burma, urging them to:

i.               Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs Moe Thway, Wai Lu, Wai Hmuu Thwin, U Aung Soe, Ko Soe Thu and U Maung San, Ko Aung Soe, Ba Htoo, Thar Kyi, Ko Latt, Thaw Zin, Ko Thu, Han Win Aung and Thaung Taik Oo,as well as of all human rights defenders in Burma;

ii.              Release Messrs. U Aung Soe, Ko Soe Thu and U Maung San immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii.            Put an end to acts of any acts of harassment, including judicial harassment, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Burma;

iv.             Publicly express concern about the repression of human rights activists and of those protesting against the mining project;

v.              Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its:

–        Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

–        Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

–        Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

vi.             More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Burma, including by undertaking human rights impact assessment of the Letpadaung mining project with a view to identifying, preventing and mitigating any adverse human rights impacts linked to the project and engaging into meaningful consultations of local communities affected by the project.

Addresses:

  • U Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, President Office, Office No.18, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: + 95 1 652 624
  • U Hla Min, Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663; Fax: +95 67 412 439
  • U Win Mra, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, 27 Pyay Road, Hline Township, Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar; Fax: +95-1-659668
  • Dr. Tun Shin, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Office No. 25, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097; Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106
  • U Tun Tun Oo, Chief Justice, Office of the Supreme Court, Office No. 24, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145; Fax: + 95 67 404 059
  • U Kyaw Kyaw Htun, Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663; Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208
  • H.E. Mr. Maung Wai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 47, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 732 89 19, +41 22 732 73 77, Email: mission@myanmargeneva.org
  • Embassy of Myanmar in Brussels, Boulevard Général Wahis 9, 1030 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)32 2 705 50 48, Email: mebrussels@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Burma in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, June 24, 2013

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
  • Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

 


[1] Section 144 grants the Judiciary the power to issue orders: “Such Magistrate may, by a written order stating the material facts of the case and served in manner provided by section 124, direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, if such Magistrate considers that such direction is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety. or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot, or an affray”. In this case the orders issued under Section 144, which were actually not enacted by the judiciary, prohibit villagers from access to their farmlands or any form of use of the farmlands.

[2] They were arrested without warrant. Sagaing Region authorities kept the whereabouts of the protesters secret for over 30 days. Only after a closed-door court proceeding, during which they were deprived of access to their lawyers, which resulted in a guilty verdict, the whereabouts of the three protesters were revealed. All of them are also facing additional charges.

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This post is in: Press Release

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