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Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw, September 19, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

Update: On December 6, the junta announced it was reducing the sentences of Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint from four to two years. It also announced they would be “detained in the current location for the remaining two years of imprisonment.”

(Bangkok) – Myanmar’s junta should immediately quash the verdict against Aung San Suu Kyi, who on December 6, 2021, was found guilty of inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 restrictions and sentenced to four years in prison, Human Rights Watch said today. The 76-year-old de facto leader of Myanmar prior to the February military coup faces an additional 10 politically motivated charges, including for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, corruption, and election fraud, carrying a total potential sentence of more than 100 years in prison. Ousted President Win Myint was also sentenced to four years.

The military arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the then-ruling National League for Democracy party, along with other senior officials in the capital, Naypyidaw, on February 1, as it nullified the results of the November 2020 democratic elections and installed a junta under a manufactured “state of emergency.” She did not appear in person in court until May 24. Her trial began on June 14. The special court in Naypyidaw remained closed to all journalists and observers, and her legal team has been barred from speaking on the case.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s guilty verdict has been guaranteed since Myanmar’s military detained her on February 1, and more baseless convictions and sentences can be expected to be piled on in the future,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The junta is using this sham court proceeding to wipe out all opposition to military dictatorship. Yet since the coup and Suu Kyi’s arrest, millions have taken to the streets to protest for freedom and democracy.”

Myanmar’s security forces have killed over 1,200 people since the coup, arrested more than 7,500, and tortured and raped detainees. The junta’s widespread and systematic abuses amount to the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance, torture, rape and other sexual violence, severe deprivation of liberty, and other inhumane acts causing great suffering.

The junta has detained thousands of protesters, activists, journalists, and others on charges that are similarly unjust as those against Aung San Suu Kyi, Human Rights Watch said. The verdict against her should remind foreign governments of the need to adopt urgent measures to press for the release of everyone arbitrarily detained and to bring the junta’s leadership to justice.

“The junta should unconditionally release Aung San Suu Kyi and all others facing politically motivated charges,” Adams said. “The military’s initial disappearance of Suu Kyi, the most well-known person in the country, speaks to the brutality and injustice that detainees with little or no profile are enduring.”

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