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Burma: Judicial Harassment and Arbitrary Detention of Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe

By Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders  •  October 9, 2014

URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

MMR 003 / 1014 / OBS 079

Arbitrary detention /Judicial harassment

Burma

October 9, 2014

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.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe, a 22-year-old activist, member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), and former youth member of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

According to the information received, on October 13, 2014, Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe will be heard by the Yinmabin District Court in Sagaing Division on fabricated charges of kidnapping under Articles 364 and 368 of the Criminal Code for her alleged involvement in the May 18 abduction of two Chinese workers near the Letpadaung copper mine near Hsete Village, Salingyi Township, Sagaing Division. She has been under detention since September 13 and is being held at Monywa Prison.

From August to December 2012, as an ABFSU member, Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe was involved in community protests against the Letpadaung copper mine (see background information), a joint venture between China’s Wanbao company and Burma’s military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH).

After December 2012, she continued to visit two villages in the area affected by the Letpadaung copper mine, Tone and Hsete, to work as a volunteer teacher for children. She also remained engaged in the community’s land rights activities by attending demonstrations and publishing information on social media related to the Letpadaung copper mine’s impacts and villagers’ activities in opposition to the project.

On May 18, villagers near the Letpadaung copper mine detained one Burmese and two Chinese Wanbao employees because they suspected the workers were planning to fence in recently seized lands. The villagers released the Burmese worker the same day but held the two Chinese workers for about 30 hours in Hsete Village.

Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe was present in Hsete Village that day in her capacity as a volunteer teacher. When she heard about the situation involving the Wanbao employees, she visited the monastery where they were being held. She had not been involved in the kidnapping [1].

On May 21, authorities requested seven people to appear in court to face charges of abduction. Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe was among those charged but she did not appear in court. On May 22, Yinmabin District Court tried and pardoned the five defendants present.

On September 13, authorities arrested Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe at her home in Patheingyi, Mandalay Division, and brought her to Monywa Prison in Sagaing Division. She was held incommunicado until a September 15 hearing, where she appeared without a lawyer.

On September 30, a judge at the Yinmabin District Court denied the bail request filed by her lawyer. Her next court hearing is scheduled for October 13, 2014. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.

The Observatory strongly denounces the detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe, which seem aimed at sanctioning her legitimate human rights activities, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.

Background information:

Since August 2012, community members in the Letpadaung area in Sagaing Division have staged peaceful protests against the copper mine project, voicing concerns over environmental damage, poor compensation for displaced families, and negative impacts to their livelihoods. Authorities have violently repressed these demonstrations on several occasions. In November 2012, police in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Division, used white phosphorus grenades to disperse a peaceful protest near the Letpadaung copper mine, resulting in severe injuries to at least 70 activists and monks.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe as well as of all human rights defenders in Burma;

ii. Release Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe immediately and unconditionally since her detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at sanctioning her human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to acts of any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Phyu Hnin Htwe as well as against all human rights defenders in Burma;

iv. 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”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and ratify international and regional human rights instruments.

Addresses:

· U Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, President Office, Office No.18, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: + 95 1 652 624

· Lt Gen Ko Ko, Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; 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; Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

· U Tun Tun Oo, Chief Justice, Office of the Supreme Court, Office No. 24, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; Fax: + 95 67 404 059

· Maj Gen Zaw Win, Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR; 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, October 9, 2014

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

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