About 5,000 of Those Held by Myanmar Junta Are in Unknown Locations: Advocacy Group

By The Irrawaddy 31 August 2021

The Myanmar junta has forcibly disappeared around 5,000 people without letting even family members know their whereabouts in its terror campaign against the entire population of the country since the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group, said on Monday.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, the junta has arrested a total of 7,627 people, of whom at least 6,033 are still under detention, the AAPP stated. Those detained include elected leaders, lawmakers, politicians, student activists, protesters, journalists and striking civil servants.

According to AAPP’s most recent database, among those on the detained list, a large majority, or 82 percent, are being held in unknown locations, the group stated, posing a serious threat to public security and violating basic international law.

AAPP joint secretary U Bo Kyi said in the group’s report to mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances that the junta’s withholding of information on the whereabouts and condition of detainees is aimed at creating a climate of fear across the country, ending anti-coup protests and instituting dictatorial rule, adding that it not only bullies the detainees but also forces their families and friends to suffer.

“Not knowing the fate or whereabouts of a loved one, this is a kind of physiological torture as well as physical abuse of one’s human rights. For this reason, it is one of the worst kinds of crime against humanity,” U Bo Kyi said in the report.

Even the whereabouts of detained elected leaders President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have not been disclosed and their access to lawyers is restricted.

In her first face-to-face meeting with her legal team in late May, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told her lawyers she doesn’t know where she is being detained and that she was isolated from the outside world. Both leaders have been subject to an information blackout.

Even children are being subjected to enforced disappearance by the junta, which is using them as hostages, the AAPP said in the report.

“Everyone is at risk of being detained in secret locations by the junta. If one is taken to an interrogation center or military barracks, one could be tortured to death in Myanmar without anyone knowing where one was,” the group said, calling on the international community to push the junta to reveal the location to civil society of all those arbitrarily detained.

Dozens of detainees including members of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) have been tortured to death during interrogation. A number of people have also died in prison due to a lack of proper medical treatment.

The AAPP added that recognition of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) by the UN General Assembly would strengthen international accountability mechanisms, including those that could help to end the Myanmar junta’s use of enforced disappearances with impunity.

The NUG recently released a statement accepting jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) with respect to crimes committed in the country since July 1, 2002. As enforced disappearance falls within the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, accountability for these crimes against humanity must be ensured, the AAPP said.

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