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BURMA/MYANMAR: The Police Cannot Avoid Responsibility for the Torture to Death of a Man in Custody

By ASEAN Human Rights Commission  •  March 25, 2014

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information that the police force of Burma has dismissed several officers involved in the torturing to death of a 39-year-old man. Other officers have been either suspended from duty or transferred to different townships. Myo Myint Swe was tortured during interrogation over a murder while detained in police custody. He eventually died as a result of the abuse and the police tried to claim that he had a heart attack. The victim’s family are receiving little assistance by way of information from the police.

CASE NARRATIVE:

As described in our original appeal (AHRC-UAC-176-2012), Myo Myint Swe was tortured to death during interrogation on 8 July 2012 while in police custody in Yangon, Burma. The police informed the family that his death was due to illness and the doctor who conducted the post mortem recorded that he had died of a heart attack. However, the family found out that he had been seriously tortured and they are shocked that the doctor is conspiring with the police to prevent a criminal case being opened against the killers. When the death inquest was held in court, it was registered as a natural death, not as a murder. But, the inference of the court that the death was unlikely to have been natural logically leads to the conclusion that someone was, in fact, responsible for the death.

The Myanmar Police Force took action against the police officers involved in the murder under the Myanmar Police Maintenance of Discipline Law which was enacted on 26 April 1995 and according to an article that appeared in the media (The Daily Eleven News, in May 2013) three police had been dismissed. Five others had been demoted and detained and once officer was transferred to another station although he was not identified in the article. Apart from the brief details stated above, the action taken by the police hierarchy was clearly described in the article and the family members do not know where they were sent to or what punishment they received. Likewise, the Yangon Regional Parliament sent a letter to the Chairman of the National Parliament referring to the Public Complaint and Appeal Committee’s letter. The contents of the letter explained that the officers had seriously tortured Myo Myint Swe and they had been punished under the Myanmar Police Maintenance of Discipline Law.

Consequently, no further legal action has been taken against them according to the criminal law of the country. Although the victim’s family has made complaints to all the ministries concerned with the case against the police, they have received no information at all. They want that the case to be properly investigated and charges brought against the perpetrators in accordance with the law. They believe that the court is compelled to reexamine the circumstances relating to the death in custody of Myo Myint Swe and to call for a more comprehensive medical investigation. While a credible autopsy and medical examination might reveal that the victim did, in fact, suffer a heart attack it would also reveal evidence of the physical abuse he received at the hands of his captors that led to the heart attack.

The family of the victim seek justice for their loved one.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Our original appeal letter, with full details of the case supplemented by updated information is provided below. Please use it to write your own letter to the persons listed at the end of this update to call for the investigation.

Please note that for the purposes of the letter Burma is referred to by its official name, Myanmar.

Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights in Myanmar; on Torture, on Extrajudicial Killings, and on the Independence of judges and lawyers; finally, to the UN regional office in Bangkok, calling for their interventions into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

BURMA/MYANMAR: The police cannot avoid responsibility for the torture to death of a man in custody

Name of victim: Myo Myint Swe (alias Kalar Gyi, Pyi Soe, Hnin Si), 39, carpenter and labourer, resident of New Dagon (East) Township, Yangon
Names of persons involved: 
1. Sub Inspector Tin NaingZaw, Bayinnaung Police Station (investigating officer), Yangon
2. Inspector NgweSoe, Commander, Bayinnaung Police Station (inquest officer)
3. Police Lieutenant Colonel MyoAung, Commander, Northern District Police Force, Yangon
4. Police Captain KyawZin Win, Commander, Mayangone Township Police Force, Yangon
5. Doctor Ye Win, Crimes Doctor, Insein Hospital
Date of incident: 5 July 2012
Place of incident: Top floor of Mayangone Township Police Station, Yangon
Death inquest: Criminal Miscellaneous Case No. 161/2012, Mayangone Township Court, Township Judge Daw Aye MyaTheingi presiding

I am distressed to hear that a man, Myo Myint Swe was tortured to death while detained in police custody in Yangon, Burma. The police informed the family that his death was due to illness and that he had suffered a heart attack during interrogation on 8 July 2012. However, the family found out that Myo Myint Swe was brutally tortured while in custody. Doctor Ye Win, who conducted the post mortem, recorded that the deceased had died due to a heart attack. Though, the family and other persons involved in the case are incredulous and believe that the doctor is conspiring with the police to prevent a criminal case being opened against the killers. Before his death, Myo Myint Swe was a young and healthy man who was involved in heavy manual labour and did not have a history of serious illness.

Moreover, the ruling was also issued to conclude a post-mortem inquest under section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and therefore criminal charges do not automatically ensue against any persons responsible for Myo Myint Swe’s death. However, the inference of the court that the death was unlikely to have been natural logically leads to the conclusion that someone was responsible. And, as the nature of the injuries described in the courtroom testimonies, and recorded on the post-mortem inquiry findings, are such that they could not have been sustained by accident, the conclusion is necessarily that the police killed Myo Myint Swe.

Additionally, according to an article that appeared in the media, Daily Eleven News, in May 2013, three police had been dismissed. Five others had been demoted and detained and once officer was transferred to another station although it was not identified in the article.

The victim’s family sent a letter of complaint to the Public Complaint and Appeal Committee on 12 September 2012 and the Committee in turn sent a letter, No. Ah Ma (committee 2) 6/2013-110) dated 12 March 2013, to the State Government about the case. The family received a copy of the Yangon Regional Parliament Letter No 2/12-3/ yae 5(La Ta) dated on 21 May 2013 to the Chairman of the National Parliament, Nay Pyi Daw referring to the letter of Public Complaint and Appeal Committee.

According to the letter, (No 1021 (107/2012)/ 804/yae 3 dated 22 January 2013), the Director of Myanmar Police Force, demoted the officers as Temporary Police Major Nyein Chan Aung to Inspector, Police Captain Kyaw Zin Win to Inspector, Inspector Myo Nyunt Luu to Sub-Inspector, Sub- Inspector Ko Ko Maung to Warrant Officer and Police Corporal Nyi Nyi Lwin to Police Lance Corporal by 2 years respectively. In a further letter (No 1021 (107/2012)/814/yae 3 dated 28 January 2013) sent by Myanmar Police Force, Sub-Inspector Zaw Htoo, Police Corporal Aung Naing Oo and Constable Nyunt Win Tun had been dismissed from the Police Force.

Although the police officers were dealt with under the Myanmar Police Maintenance of Discipline Law, the case is a criminal case as it is clearly indicated in the letter that the officers tortured the man in custody. Accordingly the persons involved must be punished under Criminal Law according to the Myanmar Police Maintenance of Discipline Law which states: “If a member of the Police Force has committed any offence not under this Law but under other existing law, the remand for continued detention of the accused transferred to the Criminal Court for trial shall be obtained from the Criminal Court”.

Although the victim’s family has made complaints to all the ministries concerned with the case against the police, they have received no information at all. They want that the case to be properly investigated and charges brought against the perpetrators in accordance with the law. They believe that the court is compelled to reexamine the circumstances relating to the death in custody of Myo Myint Swe and to call for a more comprehensive medical investigation. While a credible autopsy and medical examination might reveal that the victim did, in fact, suffer a heart attack it would also reveal evidence of the physical abuse he received at the hands of his captors that led to the heart attack.

I am aware that many people die in police custody in Myanmar but the police are rarely prosecuted. It is of the utmost importance that an example is set in this case so that they can, indeed, be held to account for their crimes, in order that the incidence of such crimes is reduced as quickly as possible.

I look forward to your positive and effective response in this case.

Yours sincerely,

———————————————–
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Lt-Gen. KoKo
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

2. U TheinSein
President of Myanmar
President Office
Office No.18
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

3. U TunTunOo
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

4. Dr. TunShin
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

5. U KyawKyawHtun
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

6. Thura U AungKo
Chairman
PyithuHluttaw Judicial and Legislative Committee
PythuHluttaw Office
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

7. U AungNyein
Chairman
PyithuHluttaw Judicial and Legislative Committee
Committee for Public Complaints and Appeals
Office of the AmyothaHluttaw
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

8. U Win Mra
Chairman
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
27 Pyay Road
Hlaing Township
Yangon
MYANMAR
Tel: +95-1-659 668
Fax: +95-1-659 668

9. DawAung San SuuKyi
Chairwoman
PyithuHluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquility Committee
Office of the PyithuHluttaw
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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This post is in: Human Rights

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