UN Rights Body Says Govt Detention of Kachin Farmer Illegal

By Paul Vrieze 15 July 2014

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has ruled on the case of ethnic Kachin farmer Brawn Yung, who is serving a 21-year sentence in Myitkyina Prison, and called on the Burmese government to immediately release him and offer reparations because his detention is illegal.

It is the second time in recent months that the UN rights body has ruled that the government’s imprisonment of a Kachin farmer is illegal.

The latest ruling, issued on May 20, was released on Tuesday by the Burma Campaign UK, which took the case of Brang Yung to the UN Working Group with the assistance of the Burma Justice Committee and Kachin National Organization UK.

The working group ruling states that Brang Yung “was targeted for prosecution as he belongs to the minority Kachin ethnic group. Members of this group have been subjected to numerous arrests as well as alleged torture against them to extract confessions.”

“The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Brang Yung was arbitrary, being in contravention of Articles 2, 7 and 10 of the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights],” the ruling said. “The Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, which include the immediate release of Mr. Brang Yung and the provision of adequate reparation to him.”

It has also referred the case to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The UN group said it had contacted the Burmese government about the case but had received no reply.

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, campaigns officer at Burma Campaign UK, said in a statement, “By keeping Brang Yung in jail it is President Thein Sein who is the one breaking the law, not Brang Yung.

“The failure to release political prisoners, even when the UN rules their detention is illegal, is yet another example of the backsliding of the reform process.” The campaign group is calling for a new independent review mechanism for political prisoners to be established in Burma.

Brang Yung, Laphai Gam and La Reing were arrested in mid-2012 and allegedly severely tortured and subject to degrading treatment on accusations that they belonged to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is fighting an insurgency against the government in northern Burma.

The Burma Campaign UK said that “According to family members, during the interrogations, [Brawn Yung] was repeatedly kicked, beaten till his scalp was cut open, forced to drink water mixed with fuel, and his arms were pierced with needles. He was also forced to have sexual intercourse with one other male prisoner.”

The three men were subsequently charged on a number of different counts on the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act and the 1908 Explosive Substances Law and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

In November, the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention had ruled in the case of Laphia Gam and said his detention is illegal. The Burma Campaign UK brought a legal complaint on behalf of Laphia Gam to the UN.

The UN Working Group said at the time that “The Army in this case is prosecutor and judge, and has arrest, investigative and trial authority, leaving little room for an impartial trial and outcome.”