Myanmar lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw shortlisted for human rights prize

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada welcomes news that Myanmar lawyer, U Khin Maung Zaw has been shortlisted for the 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Prize. Based in the Netherlands, Lawyers for Lawyers advocates for lawyers at risk around the world. LRWC nominated U Khin Maung Zaw for the prize in April 2021.

LRWC regularly advocates for human rights and the rule of law in Myanmar, often in cooperation with Lawyers for Lawyers. Since the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, U Khin Maung Zaw and other human rights lawyers have been at grave risk, and many have gone into hiding or must regularly move from safe-house to safe-house to avoid arrest.

U Khin Maung Zaw is a distinguished lawyer in Myanmar. He has courageously upheld the rule of law for more than five decades. He was arbitrarily detained for nine years between 1966 and 1980 because of his human rights and political advocacy.

Over the years he and his team of lawyers have represented a number of people in politically sensitive cases. He is currently representing a number of persons who have been arbitrarily detained on spurious and politically motivated criminal charges a result of the military coup in Myanmar beginning 1 February 2021.

U Khin Maung Zaw was elected to the Myanmar Bar Council in 2020 after the Bar Council Act was amended to allow elections for the first time since 1989. In 2020, he was elected to  membership on the Central Committee of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM), formed in 2014. He has a history of political and human rights advocacy that predates his legal career. He was a political prisoner for a combined total of nine years between 1965 and 1980.  He has consistently demonstrated courage and perseverance in representing clients from all walks of life. For example:

  • Despite widespread discriminatory hatred of Rohingya people, he undertook representation of two journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were charged with spurious criminal offences during their December 2017 investigation of the In Dinn village massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by military personnel. U Khin Maung Zaw represented the two journalists throughout their trial and appeals until they were pardoned in May 2019.
  • In 2019, U Khin Maung Zaw and another lawyer, Daw Su Darli Aung, represented a falsely-accused defendant in the “Victoria” child sexual assault case.  During the trial, both lawyers experienced judicial harassment through criminal complaints and lawsuits believed to have been launched to silence them. The defendant was a driver at a private primary school in the capital city Naypidaw, and the true suspect was one of the sons of the owner of the school. The defence lawyers persisted and won an acquittal for the defendant. In December 2020, U Khin Maung Zaw launched a pioneering law suit on behalf of the acquitted defendant to obtain compensation for false imprisonment and police mishandling of the case.
  • Since February 2021, U Khin Maung Zaw has been representing government leaders deposed and arbitrarily detained in the 1 February 2021 military coup as well as a number of detained journalists. U Khin Maung Zaw is currently in at risk as a result of his representation of persons arbitrarily detained by the Tatmadaw for political reasons. He and his colleagues are currently in danger of arrest.

U Khin Maung Zaw is one of three lawyers short-listed for the Lawyers for Lawyers award. The other two finalists are the Collective for the Defence of Hirak Detainees from Algeria, and Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak from Belarus. The laureate will be announced in Amsterdam in November 2021.