Lawyer Sues Letpadan Police for Violating Due Process

By Nobel Zaw 29 July 2015

RANGOON — Human rights lawyer Robert San Aung on Tuesday launched what could become a landmark case against two police officers involved in a brutal crackdown on student demonstrators earlier this year.

Robert San Aung, who represents many of the scores of student activists and their supporters who have been jailed since early March for participating in a public protest, has submitted the case to the Tharrawaddy Township Court and now awaits approval to proceed to trial.

The case alleges that the two officers, Police Maj. Phone Myint and Station Officer San Myint of the Letpadan Police Force, wrongly detained the students and their associates in violation of due process.

Article 60 of Burma’s Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that any person arrested without warrant must not be detained for more than 24 hours without the order of a magistrate. The plaintiff contends that the detainees were brought into custody at around 10 am on March 10, though a case was not opened against them until 1:30 pm the next day.

“[When police] arrested them they named some articles [of the penal code under which they could be charged], but they didn’t open the case within a day which violates the criminal code and constitutes unjust detention,” Robert Aung San said.

The prolific litigator, whose name has become synonymous with defending activists, said police had the right to detain the accused in a holding station but violated the law by transferring them to a prison.

The court will issue a decision on Aug. 4, when the detainees return for their next hearing, as to whether the case will proceed after hearing testimony from the two officers in question.

The Tharrawaddy Township Court will also decide next week on whether or not grant release on bail for eight prisoners suffering from health problems.

More than 70 students and their supporters face charges after police violently dispersed a protest camp outside a monastery in Letpadan, Pegu Division, on March 10. The crackdown quickly crushed months of escalating protests in opposition to a new National Education Law viewed as undemocratic.

About 20 people have since been released on bail, leaving 51 being bars at present. Some of the charges they face carry penalties of up to three years for violations that include rioting and obstructing the duties of an officer.

About 18 of the students recently sent a letter to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) claiming that their rights had been violated during the crackdown and in the days that followed. The MNHRC met with 13 of the students on Monday, though it is not yet clear whether the complaint will lead to an investigation.