HRN releases statement condemning the Myanmar junta’s sentencing of seven university students to the death penalty

Human Rights Now Condemns the Myanmar Junta’s Sentencing of Seven University Students to the Death Penalty

Human Rights Now (HRN) is outraged by and condemns the sentencing of seven university students to the death penalty on November 30, along with three other persons, and the rumors of the students’ imminent execution in the near future.

The seven students were Dagon University Student Union members aged between 18 and 24, and they were convicted for allegedly participating in a fatal shooting and robbery, despite a manifestly unjust closed-door trial which ignored international fair trial standards. The seven students are Ko Khant Zin Win, Ko Thura Maung Maung, Ko Zaw Lin Naing, Ko Thiha Htet Zaw, Ko Hein Htet, Ko Thet Paing Oo and Ko Khant Linn Maung Maung.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement, “By resorting to use [of] death sentences as a political tool to crush opposition, the military confirms its disdain for the efforts by ASEAN and the international community at large to end violence and create the conditions for a political dialogue to lead Myanmar out of a human rights crisis created by the military.” The sentencing follows the UN Secretary General’s statement at an ASEAN meeting on November 12 where he “condemned appalling human rights situation in Myanmar & repeated call on country’s authorities to release all political prisoners & launch inclusive process to return to democratic transition (sic).” It also follows a statement by Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota on November 28, following his recent release from his imprisonment in Myanmar since July 30 for filming a protest, where he insisted that “the Japanese government and public alike must be more proactive in condemning human rights abuses by the military government in Myanmar”, emphasizing the cost of the Japanese government’s weak stance against the junta despite its significant influence in Myanmar.

The news of the students’ imminent execution comes after the junta’s execution of four persons last July, the first in the last 30 years, despite widespread condemnation and appeals to desist from the international community including ASEAN. Their convictions also bring the total number of persons receiving the death penalty in Myanmar to 139 persons since the coup occurred on 1 February 2021.

HRN calls on the junta to desist from executing any persons, to enact an immediate moratorium on death penalties, and to release all political prisoners, as well as to respect the results of the 2020 election and restore the country to democratic rule.