Re: Mr. U Aye Myint, Human Rights Lawyer (2)

Re: Mr. U Aye Myint, Human Rights Lawyer

To: Dr. Tun Shin, Director General, Office of the Attorney General

From: Paul Copeland, LRWC

Date: 2005-11-15

I am writing as a member of LRWC, in response to information obtained from sources in Myanmar indicating that U Aye Myint, a lawyer from Bago Division, has been sentenced recently to seven years in prison for providing information to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on behalf of farmers of Phaungdawthi Village, Daik-U Township.

On October 25, 2005, LRWC wrote to Major General U Maung Oo, the Minister of Home Affairs,

expressing concern for the safety of U Aye Myint following his trial October 10, 2005. We are writing to you regarding U Aye Myint’s sentencing on October 31, 2005 and subsequent incarceration at Bago Prison.

According to the information we have received, U Aye Myint contacted the ILO’s Rangoon representative, Mr. Richard Horsey, to communicate claims from farmers whose land had been confiscated and reportedly distributed to groups including the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Myanmar War Veterans Organization. U Aye Myint was charged and sentenced under the Emergency Provisions Act 5C. We understand this is the second time he has been tried and sentenced for having contact with the ILO on behalf of complainants, and that his previous release was secured only after serious questions were raised by the international community and the ILO regarding his case.

The information that we have received indicates that U Aye Myint was acting fully within his duties as a representative of the farmers. Further, it is our understanding that the ILO maintains operations in Myanmar in cooperation with your Government and that there is no law or regulation preventing people in Myanmar from communicating with the ILO.

U Aye Myint’s lawyer, U San Maung, has stated that the recent trial of U Aye Myint threatens the professionalism of lawyers in Myanmar. The 14 farmers who were U Aye Myint’s clients and who gave evidence at his trial reportedly praised U Aye Myint’s professionalism.

As we stated in our letter to the Minister of Home Affairs, Myanmar, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, is 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.

We ask that the Myanmar Government, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, apply and proceed in accordance with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1998. Article 1 of that document 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.

We urge you to abide by these principles in ensuring that lawyers practicing in your country can carry out their professional functions without intimidation or interference, and that they receive the benefits of adequate safeguards by the authorities.

As we noted previously, the ILO’s Myanmar Office operates with the sanction of the Government of Myanmar. We observe with regret that Minister of Labour U Thaung has recently announced the Government of Myanmar’s intention to leave the ILO, depriving the people of Myanmar of the dispute resolution mechanisms it provides. We encourage the Government of Myanmar to reconsider this decision.

We respectfully urge the Government of Myanmar to engage in an immediate and thorough investigation into the detention, trial and sentencing of U Aye Myint, with results obtained to be made public.

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 Maung;

2. investigate the trial and sentencing of U Aye Myint.

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.