UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk on Friday expressed shock that more than 130 people have now been sentenced to death by military courts behind closed-doors in Myanmar since the military launched a coup last year, following fresh convictions this week.
At least seven university students were sentenced to death by a military court on 30 November. There are reports of as many as four additional death sentences being issued against youth activists yesterday. The UN Human Rights Office is seeking clarification of those sentences.
“The military continues to hold proceedings in secretive courts in violation of basic principles of fair trial and contrary to core judicial guarantees of independence and impartiality,” Türk said, calling for the suspension of all executions and a return to a moratorium on death penalty.
“Military courts have consistently failed to uphold any degree of transparency contrary to the most basic due process or fair trial guarantees.”
In July, the military carried out four executions, the first in approximately 30 years. A former lawmaker, a democracy activist, and two others were executed despite calls from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the international community to desist.
Close to 1,700 detainees of the nearly 16,500 who have been arrested for opposing the military’s coup have been tried and convicted in secret by ad hoc tribunals, sometimes lasting just minutes. None have been acquitted, and often they have not had access to lawyers or their families.
The latest convictions would bring the total number of individuals sentenced to capital punishment to 139 individuals since 1 February 2021.
The actions of the military are not in keeping with the ASEAN 5-point consensus that the South-East Asia nations have just re-committed to uphold at the ASEAN summit in November, Türk said.
“By resorting to use death sentences as a political tool to crush opposition, the military confirms its disdain for the efforts by ASEAN and the international community at large to end violence and create the conditions for a political dialogue to lead Myanmar out of a human rights crisis created by the military,” the UN Human Rights Chief added.