GENEVA (25 July 2022) – UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet today condemned in the strongest terms the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military despite repeated calls by the United Nations and the wider international community to not carry out death sentences.
“I am dismayed that despite appeals from across the world, the military conducted these executions with no regard for human rights,” Bachelet said. “This cruel and regressive step is an extension of the military’s ongoing repressive campaign against its own people.
“These executions – the first in Myanmar in decades – are cruel violations of the rights to life, liberty and security of a person, and fair trial guarantees. For the military to widen its killing will only deepen its entanglement in the crisis it has itself created.”
The High Commissioner called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and others arbitrarily detained, and urged the country to reinstate its de-facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a step towards eventual abolition.
On 25 July, Myanmar state media reported that the military had executed four people including former National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw, democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, popularly known as Ko Jimmy. Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were the other two men executed.
Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zaya Thaw were arrested on 23 October and 18 November 2021 respectively. Ko Jimmy was subsequently charged with sedition. Both Phyo Zayar Thaw and Ko Jimmy were also charged under the Counter Terrorism Law and sentenced to death by a military tribunal on 21 January 2022. Their subsequent appeals were denied. Hla Myo Aung, and Aung Thura Zaw were convicted on murder charges. Their appeals were also denied.
In Myanmar, such cases are being heard by military courts behind closed doors. Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, 117 people, including two children, have been sentenced to death including 41 sentenced in absentia. Over 11,500 people remain in detention for opposing the military’s seizure of power.
“Most concerningly, over 30 percent of over 2,100 people killed since February 2021 have died in military custody – most as a result of ill-treatment,” said Bachelet.
On 3 June, UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed concern at the military’s decision to go ahead with executions and reiterated his calls for the respect of people’s rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Bachelet echoed his call for the military to “drop all charges against those arrested on charges related to the exercise of their fundamental freedoms and rights” and the immediate release of all political prisoners in Myanmar.
“The military seems unconcerned with ending this crisis or reducing violence in accordance with its international obligations, let alone any willingness to respect due process, justice or rule of law,” Bachelet said.
The High Commissioner reiterated her call to Myanmar’s neighbours and to the wider international community to hold the military accountable to its commitments under international law, as well as further to ASEAN’s “Five-Point Consensus”.
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