Lawyers Call for Myanmar Coup Chiefs to Face High Treason Charges

By The Irrawaddy 18 February 2021

Yangon — Lawyers in Myanmar have called for the prosecution of the military’s State Administrative Council (SAC) for high treason for seizing power in breach of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

The recommendation was made to the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament) (CRPH), which was formed by National League for Democracy lawmakers elected to the Union Parliament that was dissolved by the Feb. 1 coup.

The CRPH has sought legal advice to prosecute the SAC in domestic and international courts and a group of Myanmar lawyers suggested the coup leaders can be charged with high treason, which carries the death sentence.

“The fact that the military council has seized power by means of arms constitutes high treason against the government and the council should be prosecuted at the Supreme Court of the Union,” the statement said.

The seizure of power breaches Articles 201, 203, 347 and 375 of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, alone declared a state of emergency, the lawyers said.

Article 201 says a state of emergency cannot be declared without the approval of the 11-member National Defence and Security Council, in which the military chief ranks sixth below the president, two vice-presidents and two parliamentary speakers, said the lawyers.

“They are justifying their coup by referring to the 2008 Constitution. We will prosecute them by proving that the coup is against the Constitution. We will do whatever we can,” said U Myo Naing, a CRPH member representing Mandalay Region.

The military views the CRPH as an attempt at a parallel government and has issued arrest warrants for its members.

“People are acting collectively. We are giving guidance where we can and working step by step. The common agreement is to overthrow the military dictatorship. People must fight it with one mind and one voice. We are working for that,” said U Myo Naing.

The lawyers said they would assist attempts to put the military council on trial.

The SAC has already amended the Penal Code’s definition of high treason to say only unconstitutional use of force constitutes high treason, meaning it is acceptable to use force constitutionally.

The CRPH stated it opposed the amendments and urged the public not to acknowledge the changes.

According to the lawyers, legal changes under the 2008 Constitution must be drafted in a bill which passes through Parliament and is signed into law by the president.

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