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Dossier of torture cases submitted to U.N. experts

By Asian Legal Resource Centre  •  August 27, 2010

(Hong Kong, August 27, 2010) The Asian Legal Resource Centre on Wednesday submitted a special dossier to a group of United Nations human rights experts on recent cases of extreme, prolonged torture by police officers in Burma.

The 66-page dossier, entitled “Recent complaints of extreme torture and arbitrary detention in Myanmar (Burma)”, details the cases of Phyo Wai Aung, Nyi Nyi Htun and Than Myint Aung at the hands of special units attached to the Rangoon Divisional Police Headquarters and Aungthapyay Interrogation Camp, also in Rangoon.

Each of the three men was accused of involvement in planned bombings, bombings or attempted bombings, although in Than Myint Aung’s case the police later changed the charges to completely unrelated offences. At a trial inside prison he was sentenced to 15 years. The other two men’s cases are ongoing.

Each has alleged that he was illegally detained and tortured constantly by police working on shifts for days or weeks on end, during which time he could not sleep and was not fed or given more than a few handfuls of water.

The torture included being forced to stand naked or partly naked for days at a time, sometimes blindfolded or handcuffed, and being forced to kneel on gravel for extended periods.

Police officers also allegedly repeatedly assaulted all of the men with fists, boots and truncheons in all parts of the body, ran truncheons along their shins, shoved a truncheon into the anus of one, and tortured the genitalia of all three through various methods, including with lit paper and by dripping hot wax or by pouring hot water onto them.

As a result of the torture, Than Myint Aung had his skull cracked in two places.

Basil Fernando, director of policy and programme development at the ALRC, said that the seriousness of the cases and the determination of the victims to have their complaints heard despite the lack of domestic avenues placed a special onus on international human rights agencies to respond.

“Not only are the types of torture allegedly carried out on these three persons highly systematized and utterly inhumane, but the rest of the system is just as systematic and inhumane in its denial of complaints that such abuses have been committed,” he said.

“The sheer barbarity of criminal justice in Burma is shown in these cases not through the acts of torture alone but through the fact that complaints of this type of torture can even be heard in court without a judge so much as lifting a finger in response,” Fernando remarked.

“Apparently, there is no court in the country that will entertain these types of allegations seriously, and the perpetrators know it, the victims know it, the lawyers know it, the relatives know it, but still these people are raising their voices with immense courage and trying to be heard,” he said.

“Whether or not the judiciary of Burma is deaf to their calls, we cannot be, and we also must take responsibility to ensure that others hear,” Fernando added.

The Hong Kong-based regional group has submitted the dossier to the Special Rapporteurs on torture, on human rights in Myanmar, on the independence of judges and lawyers and also to the Working Group on arbitrary detention, ahead of the next session of the U.N. Human Rights Council from September 13 to October 1.

The ALRC has also made a separate written submission to the Human Rights Council on two of the three cases.

“Our staff in Geneva will be personally following up with the experts and their staff about these cases during the council, as well as with other concerned persons and agencies there,” Fernando said.

Burma has not joined either the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Convention against Torture.

However, Fernando stressed, torture is under international law a norm from which no country is permitted to derogate, irrespective of whether it is has joined human rights treaties or not.

For media inquiries:
In English: Basil Fernando, +852 2698 6339
In Burmese: Min Lwin Oo, +47 9843 4085

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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

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