Sunday, January 19, 2014

Asian Human Rights Commission Statement on Impunity

On Jan. 17, 2014, the Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement concerning impunity for military and police personnel in Myanmar/Burma. According to the Commission: "Three low-ranked soldiers attacked Zaw Min Oo and his companion on a riverbank in Pyi during 2013 nearby the Nawaday Bridge over the Irrawaddy River (AHRC-UAC-122-2013). Zaw Min Oo died in the attack while his companion survived by feigning death. She ran to call for help and in a short time local search parties had located the men, whom they took to the police. The police initiated criminal proceedings but the commander of the battalion where the men were stationed came and took them from police custody. Although investigating police, including from the specialised Criminal Investigation Department, told the family and other persons involved that they have enough evidence to prosecute and are sure that the three soldiers are the perpetrators of the crime, the army has refused to hand them over. Instead the battalion conducted a court martial that absolved the men of any responsibility in the crime. The court martial was closed off from the family or other persons concerned with their interests, and according to them all the authorities have refused to deal with them or keep them informed of what has happened to the alleged murderers. Even the men’s whereabouts are uncertain, with some reports suggesting they are still being at their battalion camp, others that they have been transferred elsewhere." The statement concluded by observing that "the legal barriers to prosecution of these persons, in the case of the police through the Criminal Procedure Code and in the case of the military through military regulations and orders, need to be removed so as to enable ready prosecution of accused persons in cases of this sort." Where should cases like this be prosecuted: in a court-martial or in a civilian court? What would justify keeping the public from observing the trial?

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