YANGON— Ko Aung Gyi, who was falsely accused of raping a toddler at a private school in Naypyitaw last year, has sued the Myanmar Police Force for wrongfully detaining him for more than six months.
It is the first time in nearly six decades that the police have been brought before a court for causing damage to a citizen, according to lawyers and legal experts.
Ko Aung Gyi, also known as Ko Aung Kyaw Myo, was arrested twice over the high-profile rape of the toddler, who was not yet 3 years old when the crime occurred at Wisdom Hill private school in Naypyitaw in May 2019. The case caused widespread anger in Myanmar. He was released by the court in December 2019 due to a lack of evidence. To date, the police have also failed to fulfill their duty to bring the real offender in the case to justice.
Lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw, who defended Ko Aung Gyi in court, said a complaint against the police force was filed with Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri District Court on Tuesday and the court accepted it the same day. In the complaint, Ko Aung Gyi seeks 500 million kyats (US$375,000) in damages from the police.
A false accusation directed at Ko Aung Gyi by the country’s deputy police chief, Police Major General Aung Naing Thu, at a press conference on July 5 in Naypyitaw is among the damages listed in the complaint, U Khin Maung Zaw said.
At the press conference, the police major general said Ko Aung Gyi was surely the offender—despite the fact that the court had yet to accept the charge filed against the accused—while defending the police’s decision to re-arrest Ko Aung Gyi after the court initially released him due to lack of evidence.
U Khin Maung Zaw said that by bringing the case against a powerful national institution —the first of its kind since 1962—the legal team hoped to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
The Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM) and the Human Rights Subcommittee are providing assistance in the case, he said.
The court will hear the complaint on Dec. 18 and will hear testimony from the police later.
Lack of justice for the toddler
U Khin Maung Zaw said that while it was a positive development that Ko Aung Gyi, who was widely believed by most members of the public to have been framed, escaped the police’s false charges, justice had not yet been done as the rapist is still free.
The court process in the case ended when Ko Aung Gyi was released. Police must now reinvestigate the case to bring the rapist to court.
President U Win Myint in February instructed the Supreme Court of the Union, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Union Attorney-General’s Office to work to find the truth in the case. Yet, to date, justice still has not been served and no information has been released on a new investigation.
Officials responsible for the investigation had failed to fulfill their duties and thus the truth had failed to come out, legal adviser U Khin Maung Myint said in May. The police have been widely criticized for mishandling the case, in particular for making false accusations, mishandling evidence and revealing the identities of the victim and her parents in violation of the Child Rights Law.
The family of the victim, who has been dubbed “Victoria” to protect her identity, has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in establishing the truth in their daughter’s case.
“We opened the case to get the truth,” the victim’s father told The Irrawaddy in May. “But the truth has eluded us,” he said.
Together with writer U Htin Lin Oo, who has campaigned for justice for Victoria, ILAM also announced plans to sue the police officers involved in revealing the identities of the toddler and her relatives. However, this effort was delayed when the government imposed travel restrictions and stay-home orders in the wake of the country’s first COVID-19 case in late March.
Lawyer U Thein Than Oo from ILAM said the group would again press to sue the police officials under the new government.
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