Re: Mr. U Aye Myint, Human Rights Lawyer
To: Senior General Than Shwe, Ministry of Defence, Burma
From: Paul Copeland, LRWC
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of Canadian lawyers providing support internationally to advocates whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.
LRWC is gravely concerned for the safety of U Aye Myint, a laywer from Bago Division.
We are writing in response to information obtained from sources in Myanmar, indicating that on Sept. 5, 2005, U Aye Myint was detained by the assistant commander of Daik-U Township police force, U Win Tin Oo. According to his lawyer U San Aung, U Aye Myint was arrested and charged under the Emergency Provisions Act 5C for allegedly supplying the ILO with false information, after he filed a report on behalf of farmers about complaints of land confiscation in Phaungdawthi Village, Bago Township. He was held by the Daik-U Township police pending trial. U Aye Myint was tried by the Daik-U Township court on October 10, 2005.
We understand that U Aye Myint has come under repeated threats over the past three years because of his actions as a human rights defender. We note that U Aye Myint was previously arrested along with eight others on July 20, 2003 and given a life sentence on Nov. 28, 2003 for reporting on forced labour practices to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He was granted an early release in 2005, after questions were raised by members of the international community and the ILO regarding his case.
LRWC notes that the ILO operates in Myanmar with the sanction of your government, and that the farmers U Aye Myint represents stated that he presented their grievances fairly. We understand, from information provided in public documents of the ILO Governing Body, that the ILO requested legal and judicial clarity over a year ago, in June 2004, “on the issue of whether contacts with the ILO of whatever nature and form could have ‘judicial consequences.’” Further, we recognize that the Governing Body found these matters to be so serious that they questioned the “very basis of the ILO’s presence in the country.”
We ask that the Myanmar government apply and proceed in accordance with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998, and in particular, Article 1 of that document, which states:
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.
The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Articles 9(5) and 11) further requires your government to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the allegations made against U Aye Myint. Article 12(2) creates the mandatory responsibility of member states to protect lawyers in the practice of their profession.
As a member of the United Nations, Myanmar has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of U Aye Myint. Myanmar is also bound by the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers,” welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990.
Article 16 of the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers” states:
Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.
Article 17, furthermore, states:
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to ensure the implementation of the Declaration, and to abide by the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.”
LRWC calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the illegal detention of U Aye Myint, for the results obtained to be made public, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. LRWC also calls upon the government of Myanmar to take swift and effective action to ensure the security of all human rights defenders so they can continue to carry out their legitimate and important work defending human rights.
LRWC respectfully urges you to show consideration for U Aye Myint’s right to lawfully represent complaints of clients to officials of the International Labour Organisation, which operates in Myanmar under the authority of your government.
Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Myanmar is taking to:
1. ensure the present and future safety of U Aye Myint and his lawyer, U San Aung;
2. investigate the detention of U Aye Myint.
LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.