MANDALAY — The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) expressed concern over a terrorist list published by the Myanmar government, stating that it defies rule of law principles and puts lives at risk.
The list published in state media showed names and photos of individuals that it claimed were members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The statement issued by ICJ on Jan. 25 said the authorities failed to explain how the people on the list were identified and the reason why they were on the list, appearing to have been accused outside of any formal judicial process.
“Given the lack of publicly available information as to the basis of ascribing membership of a prescribed terrorist organization to the persons in the photos, and the manner in which their information has been publicized, the ICJ is concerned that the stated accusations may be arbitrary,” said the statement.
“The authorities have an obligation to administer justice through due process and fair trials, and not name calling and public shaming,” said the statement. “Authorities should cease publishing such material and take effective protective measures to ensure the safety and security of the people named in these publications and their families.”
The ICJ urged the government authorities to give legal protection to the accused if they were apprehended, brought to court and found innocent, while urging the presumption of innocence.
“Authorities must refrain from making public statements that are defamatory in nature, that violate fair trial rights by affirming or implying the guilt of persons accused of crimes, and that violate the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers, all of which are recognized in national and international law,” the ICJ’s statement said.
While stating that the government should not violate the right to privacy, the ICJ also pressed for the safe return of refugees.
The lawyer activists from Myanmar also said they had concerns over the publication of the terrorist list because it included women and children who were family members of people with alleged ties to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
“I totally agree with the ICJ statement. We have so many questions on the list – how it was generated and by which measure these individuals were identified as terrorists?” said lawyer U Thein Than Oo, from the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network.
“And since there’s no clarification about whether these people were arrested or sentenced in court, publishing this list is illegal, unethical and abuses the international covenant on civil and political rights,” he added.
The activists also said the authorities should respect human rights and the right to privacy.
“We have to question how concrete the list is. If it is not certain, it will become defamatory, which could affect their lives,” said U Aung Myo Min, the executive director of Equality Myanmar. “Moreover, even if it is true, this could affect the judicial ruling for they have already been accused.”
He added that for the women and children on the list, being related to someone accused of terrorism does not directly implicate them.
“Trying to arrest or take legal action against everyone related to the accused is an abuse of human rights and privacy,” he added.
Starting from Jan. 17, the government published a list of more than 1,400 men, women and children, including names, photos and personal information, stating that they were members or associates of ARSA.
The list was also published by the President’s Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting the government of Bangladesh hand over those included.