Overturn 6 month sentence of human rights defender and lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min
Press Statement from the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma)
AAPP is calling on the U Thein Sein administration in Burma to overturn the 6 month sentence of Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min: a human rights defender, lawyer for political prisoners, and former leading member of the National League for Democracy – Youth (NLD-Youth).
This is the first sentencing of an exile who returned to Burma after an olive branch was extended to Burma communities living in exile. The unfortunate case of Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min shows that when it comes to human rights, the government of Burma still cannot be trusted.
Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, 32 years old, was originally accused of contempt of court while he and two other defense lawyers were defending 11 NLD clients in an October 2008 judicial proceeding. When another defense lawyer failed to appear on time, the judge forced a defendant to question the prosecuting police officer by himself. To protest the unfair and prejudiced trial process, 3 of the defendants turned their backs to the court. Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was accused with contempt when he refused the judge’s orders to reign in his client’s behavior in saying, “We don’t want to forbid our clients from doing anything…we are defense lawyers and we act according to our clients’ instructions.”
Fearing arrest for the third time, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min fled to Thailand in October 2008 where he continued to work on promoting and assisting in implementing the rule of law in Burma. He was thus sentenced in absentia to the maximum punishment allowed under Section 228 of the penal code. He received his sentence on 29 August by the Rangoon Northern District Court and is now in the notoriously overcrowded Insein prison.
“First, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was wrongfully charged in sham accusations under Prime Minister U Thein Sein. Now, years later, he is being sent to prison under President U Thein Sein who is claiming to welcome exiles with open arms. This disturbing sentence proves there is still no independent judiciary in Burma,” said Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of AAPP.
In Burma, charge with contempt of court has serious consequences and can result in loss of a lawyer’s license, especially if the accused is imprisoned.
Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min has been subjected to judicial harassment for many years, and on several occasions, the harassment has extended to other government spheres and taken the form of public beatings and threats of long-term imprisonment. For taking part in a protest outside a hotel where UN envoy Gambira was staying, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was kicked in the chest in public by local authorities and then interrogated on the street.
“All he has done to earn this level of punishment is fully support his clients. Even when threatened with arrest, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min continued to fully defend his clients with determination and courage. The world must support him now,” continued Bo Kyi.
Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min has defended 14 cases, all political prisoners, since he received his lawyer license in May 2008, including the case of U Myint Aye, co-founder of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network.
AAPP believes the sentence against Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min is just another attempt to silence him and prevent him from carrying out his human rights activities, especially in his capacity as a human rights lawyer. The case of Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min must also been seen in the larger context of blanket repression of all human rights in Burma and harassment and intimidation of all who stand up for human rights, including human rights defenders and lawyers in Burma.
AAPP denounces the extreme measures taken against Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min and urges the authorities in Burma to overturn the 6 month sentence and immediately and unconditionally release him.
AAPP also urges Burma authorities to put an immediate end to all forms of judicial harassment against Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min and all human rights lawyers detained for their human rights activities. Burma must conform with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and relevant international human rights instruments ratified by Burma.
Appendix: Personal Statement from Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min (on 17 December 2008)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
For more information:
Tate Naing (Secretary): +66 (0) 81 287 8751
Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary): +66 (0) 81 962 8713