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[Statement] Protest against the SPDC's measures, including sentencing of 65 years in prison for Myanmar democratic leaders and monks

In September 2007, the Myanmar military government (SPDC) responded to the democratic movement with a brutal clampdown and detainment of the participants. Despite severe criticisms from the international community, the SPDC has not remedied this human rights violation and, to make matters worse, it has conducted criminal trials against participants and their oppression has continued.

On November 11th 2008, the SPDC rendered the judgement of 65 years in prison-a de facto lifetime imprisonment- to 23 prominent democratic activists who led the protest movement from August to September 2007. The judgements were confidentially rendered to so-called 88 generation democratic activists (students at that time who played a main role in democratic movements in 1988) including Mr. Min Ko Naign, in Insein Prison for 14 members and in each prison for the other 20 members (among which 65 years in prison was the sentence for 9 members) and the judicial processes were completely closed even to their families. In addition, on the same day, the SPDC gave the judgement of 12-and-a-half years in prison to Ms. Su Su New, a prominent activist in labour-related issues. Also, lawyers who defended the democratic activists were detained. Furthermore, according to the information we gained, Mr. Ashin Gambira, who lead the democratic movements as a monk in September 2007, was given a judgement of 12 years in prison and some other monks were also reportedly punished with sentences of imprisonment.


The subjects this judgment are those involved in a series of activities following the nation-wide democratic movement, including monks, which was triggered by the SPDC's one-sided decision on August 15th 2007 to raise the fixed price of fuel and daily necessities. The decision was a matter of life or death for Myanmar citizens, whose GDP per person is only 219 dollars (less than one dollar per day), and the citizen leaders and monks started the protest movement in a peaceful manner to protect citizens' lives. This movement ultimately grew into nation-wide democratic movement, but the whole process was conducted peacefully from start to finish.


However, the SPDC clamped down the movement by armed force, and they rendered on many participants a de facto lifetime imprisonment of 65 years in prison. This is an outrage and manifest challenge against democracy.


There is no doubt that these judgements were rendered according to the will of the SPDC and were far from independent and fairn. This amounts to a violation of fundamental and universal human rights provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the freedom of expression (Article 19), freedom of peaceful meeting and assembly (Article 20), prevention of arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9), and the right to receive independent, fair and open trial (Article 10).

On November 18th of this year, five experts-Tomas Ojea Quintana (UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary), Frank La Rue (Special Rapporteur on the Right to Free Expression), Margaret Sekaggya (Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders), Asma Jahangir (Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion-who were elected by UN Human Rights Council, strongly criticized the SPDC's unfair trials and arbitrary convictions of "Prisoners of Conscience" and urged the government to immediately stop the oppression and arrests of people who peacefully exercised their right to free expression.

Human Rights Now strongly protests these SPDC measures and calls on the international community, including Japan, to strongly urge the SPDC to release all political prisoners, including the above-mentioned 34 members, immediately and unconditionally.

On October 2nd 2007, the UN's Human Rights Council adopted a resolution concerning the human rights situation in Myanmar which expressed strong regret toward the clampdown by its armed forces. The resolution also urged the government to stop human rights violations as well as to abolish all restrictions on expression, peaceful meeting, and assembly in addition to recommending the immediate release of all prisoners arrested in the armed clampdown in 2007 and other political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi. It also recommended the SPDC have sincere talks with democratic groups. However; none of these have been implemented. The SPDC argues that they will pave the way for democracy by holding a general election in 2010, but the series of above-mentioned actions revealed that this process is simply part of deceiving the international community and is far from the beginning of a road to genuine democracy. HRN urges all Member States of the Human Rights Council, including Japan and other neighbouring countries, to make every effort to correct these grave human rights violations using the Human Rights Council and every other available opportunity.


(Human rights violations in the judicial area of Myanmar)


I The unfair arrest and sentence of the two senior lawyers (U Aung Them & U Khin Mating Shien)

1) These two lawyers have taken many cases of democratic activists, including Monk Garnbira, who led the massive democratic movement in September 2007.

2) Their clients expressed no faith in the judicial process and therefore were withdrawing the power of attorney from the two lawyers. The defendants had already told this to the court (Hlaing Township Court) but the judge (Daw Aye Myaing) had instructed them to communicate such in writing through their lawyers.


3) After the judge received the letter as she had ordered, she submitted it to the Supreme Court with a complaint against the two advocates under Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1926. This is even though the letter was submitted expressing the views of the defendants, and the advocates were withdrawing their authority in accordance with the clients' wishes.


4) The two accused lawyers were not invited to any trial at the Supreme Court and did not even know that they had been accused of an offence until they heard of it by happenchance through colleagues, while attending hearings as usual on Friday morning. The court convicted the two without hearing from them, even though it ordinarily takes between a week to ten days to hear such a case, and a fortnight and a month for the court to issue a judgment.


5) Police arrested the two senior advocates at their houses last night after they were convicted of contempt of court. The two were taken to local police stations to be transferred to prisons where they are each set to serve a term of four months.


2. Unfair arrest and sentences against two young lawyers (Niyi Nyi Htwe & Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min)


1) Nyi Nyi Htwe and Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min are defense lawyers of the 11 NLD youths who were arrested in September 2008 for their peaceful march towards the Shwe Dagon Pagoda on June 19, 2007-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday-wearing T-shirts with photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on them.

2) Their family members are not allowed to attend the court hearing. Their lawyers are not allowed to meet with their clients in private to have proper consultation and instruction and the judge does not allow them sufficient time to make counter questions against the prosecution witnesses. Further, they found that the police and some plain-cloth persons are taking pictures and recording their voices during the trials. Therefore, the 11 defendants and two lawyers submitted a complaint to the judge to address these unfair issues.


3) Instead of making the trials free and fair, the judge allowed the prosecutor to sue the three defendants and two lawyers, under the charge of Section 228 of the Penal Code and issued a warrant to arrest the two lawyers.


4) On October 29th, one lawyer, Nyi Nyi Htwe was arrested. Another lawyer, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, will go to a police station tomorrow to face the charge.


3. The 14 democratic activists got 65-year prison sentences The military regime sentenced 14 leading activists, including five women, from the 88 Generation Students Group to 65 years imprisonment. The 14 activists who had been held under more than 20 charges--Min Zeya (M), Jimmy (aka) Kyaw Minn Yu (M), Zaw Zaw Min (M), Than Tin (aka) Kyi Than (M), Zeyar (aka) Kalama (M), Ant Bwe Kyaw (M), Kyaw Kyaw Htwe (aka) Markie (M), Pandeik Htun (M), Thet Zaw (aka) Zaukhtoe (M), Thin Thin Aye (aka) Mie Mie (F), Mar Mar Oo (F), Nilar Thein (F), Sandar Min (aka) Shwee (F) and Thet Thet Aung (F)--were given a prison term of 65 years each by the infamous Insein Prison's Special Court.


4. Nine 88 Generation group leaders, including Min Ko naing, were sentenced to 65-year prison sentences On 11 November, nine 88 Generation Group leaders including Min Ko Naing were given long-term prison sentences of 65 years again in Maubin prison, the same as the previous fourteen members of the 88 Generation Students Group. After that they were transferred to Insein Prison and then transferred again far from Rangoon and into different areas as following---


Min Ko Naing

Ko Ko Gyi

Mya Aye

Pyone Cho

Aung Thu

Bo Bo Win Hlaing and 7 persons

Htay Kywe

Myo Aung Naing

Hla Myo Naung

Saw Wai

Su Sit Nway

Tint San

Myat San

Win Maw

U Aung Thein(Lawyer)

U Khin Mating Shein

Nay Myo Kyaw (This list needs to be tidied up and the numbering system made consistent)


5. A famous labour activist got a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence (Su Su New)

Labour activist Su Su New, the 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award winner, was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years imprisonment. She was charged under Sections 505b and 124 of the Penal Code, and Sections 17 and 20 of the Printers and Publishers Act.


6. A democratic blogger received a prison sentence (Nay Phone Latt)

Blogger Nay Phone Latt, 28, a major source of information for the outside world on the brutal regime crackdown during the September 2007 uprising, was sentenced to 20 years and six months imprisonment. He was charged under Section 505/b of the Penal Code, Articles 32/b & 36 of the Video Act, and Articles 33/a & 38 of the Electronic Transactions Law.


7. A democratic poet got a 2-year jail sentence (Saw Wai)

Poet Saw Wai was sentenced to two years imprisonment. He was charged under Section 505/b of the Penal Code. The poet was arrested after his poem mocking junta leader Sr. Gen. Than Shwe entitled "February 14" was published in the Love Journal. The first words of each line of the poem spelled out `Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe'.


8. A famous monk received a prison sentence (Ashin Gambira)

U Gambira, the 29-year old leader of the All-Myanmar Monks' Alliance that spearheaded nationwide protests in Myanmar in September 2007 was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday by a special court convened behind closed doors at Rangoon's Insein Prison. When the court handed down the decision, he had no lawyer because the lawyer was arrested (as mentioned above-which lawyer?). Gatnbira was charged with violating a number of laws generally having to do with threatening the stability of the state, including Section 505 A and B of the State Offence Act, Section 13/1 of the Immigration Act, Section 17/1 of the Illegal Organization Act, Section 303 A of the Electronic Act and Section 6 of the Organization Act..