(Bangkok) – The Myanmar authorities should immediately end criminal proceedings and release students and other activists charged for participating in recent peaceful protests, a coalition of 10 human rights organizations said in a joint statement today. The groups also called on Myanmar’s government to lift internet restrictions in Rakhine and Chin States and reform all laws to comply with international standards for the protection of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Dozens of students and others are facing charges under sections 505(a) and (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, and the National Disaster Management Law for organizing protests and sticker campaigns highlighting military abuses in Rakhine State and internet restrictions in parts of Rakhine and Chin States. Four different courts in Mandalay have already convicted two of the students and cumulatively sentenced each to seven years in prison.
“It’s shocking that students are facing long prison sentences for peacefully criticizing human rights abuses in Rakhine State,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “Neither peaceful protest nor criticism of the government is a crime, and the Myanmar authorities should stop treating them as such. The authorities should drop all charges and release all those detained for exercising their basic rights.”
The organizations signing the statement are: Access Now, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Athan - Freedom of Expression Activist Organization, Burma Human Rights Network, Civil Rights Defenders, Fortify Rights, FORUM-Asia, and Human Rights Watch.