Elderly human rights activist jailed, rights groups outraged

Burma’s government has received harsh criticism for arbitrarily arresting a 74 year-old human rights activist in July and keeping him under arrest despite reports that he is in poor health and cannot get proper medical attention.

The elderly man, Kyaw Hla Aung has been in arbitrary detention in Sittwe Police Station No. 1 in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since July 15th.

Amnesty International has said that the man is in poor health, suffering from high blood pressure and gastric problems, leaving him in not fit state to be detained. The group also stated it’s concerns that the man may not have appropriate legal representation to defend his case and that the conditions of detention “fail to meet
international human rights standards.”

Political beliefs made him enemy of the state Kyaw Hla Aung, who has spent more than 16 years in prisons in Burma due to his involvement in peaceful activities, is a prominent Rohingya lawyer and former staffer of a humanitarian non-governmental organization.

In June 2012, Kyaw Hla Aung, was arbitrarily arrested and detained with several Rohingya aid workers following violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state. He was later released in August 2012.

Before his latest arrest by the authorities, Kyaw Hla Aung had been in hiding after the detainment of several Muslim leaders following community protests against a government-led population registration exercise conducted in Rakhine state in April 2013.

Tensions arose when members of the Rohingya community refused to identify themselves as “Bengali”, which is viewed by many as a divisive term used to deny recognition to the Rohingya community in Burma, by implying Rohingya are immigrants from Bangladesh. Protests forced the authorities to suspend the registration exercise. Kyaw Hla Aung was not present during the protests. Amnesty International said that he was trying to contact other Muslim leaders in an attempt to stop the protests from becoming violent.

On the 15th of July a police officer and two plainclothes officials took Kyaw Hla Aung from his temporary shelter in Sittwe and brought him to the Sittwe police station for questioning. He was reported to have been brought before the Sittwe District Court on 31 July 2013, and has been charged under Articles 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 150 (hiring or conniving at hiring of persons to join an unlawful assembly), and 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to a public servant to deter him from his duty) of Burma’s Penal Code.

Court sessions are reportedly due to continue on 14 August 2013. He remains detained in the Sittwe police station. Credible sources confirm that Kyaw Hla Aung has not been be seen by a doctor while held in detention, and the authorities are not providing him with the medicines he needs. Kyaw Hla Aung does not have access to clean drinking water or water for bathing, and family members have not been allowed to visit him in detention.

Burma’s decision ignores human rights norms Amnesty International said that the arrest of Kyaw Hla Aung
highlighted a complete disregard for human rights and international law.

“Under Article 2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, each state has a duty to create the conditions necessary to defend human rights within their jurisdictions.” Amnesty International said.

They added, “However, human rights defenders in Myanmar continue to be arrested detained and imprisoned simply for their involvement in peaceful activities. Human rights defenders in Myanmar also face intimidation and harassment… Amnesty International calls on the Government of Myanmar to ensure an environment in which it is possible to defend human rights without fear of reprisal or intimidation.”

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