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Open letter on imprisonment of Reuters journalists

7 Sep 2018

The decision to jail two Burmese Reuters journalists is a grave miscarriage of justice which fundamentally undermines Burma's fragile democratisation.

The decision to jail two Burmese Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, for seven years simply for doing their job of investigating and reporting atrocities committed by the military in Burma (Myanmar) is a grave miscarriage of justice which fundamentally undermines Burma’s fragile democratisation.

Freedom of the press is fundamental to democracy. The failure of the civilian-led government of Burma to protect journalists and their ability to tell the public the truth about the military’s crimes in Rakhine State and other parts of the country is yet another severe blow to the hopes of a transition to democracy that were raised when the current government was elected three years ago. The refusal to acknowledge the truth, the concerted efforts to hide the truth, and the imprisonment of two young men for reporting the truth are all indications that Burma is continuing in the ways of repression and lies favoured by past military regimes.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be released immediately and unconditionally. However, theirs is just the most recent, and most high-profile, miscarriage of justice in Burma. Over 70 political prisoners are in Burma’s jails today, convicted or awaiting trial under a number of unjust laws which Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has failed to repeal or reform. We therefore call for the release of all political prisoners in Burma and the repeal or reform of all laws which are misused to silence dissent.

When Aung San Suu Kyi and her government were elected just over three years ago, the international community responded with great hope and unbounded goodwill. No one is unaware of the limitations and challenges the civilian government faces, or of the fact that the military still retains significant power. Yet what has happened in the past three years is of grave concern. Burma’s military stands accused by the United Nations of genocide and crimes against humanity. The perpetrators continue to commit these crimes with impunity, while those who help expose them are threatened, killed, or jailed. No democracy can be built on such bloodshed and lies. It is Burma’s Generals, not its journalists, who should be on trial. We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma, the repeal or reform of unjust laws, and action by the international community to end impunity and ensure justice, including the referral of those responsible for crimes against humanity in Burma to the International Criminal Court.

Jonathan Aitken – former Cabinet Minister, United Kingdom

Rushanara Ali MP – House of Commons, United Kingdom

Lord Alton of Liverpool – House of Lords, United Kingdom

Professor Jimly Asshiddiqie - former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Indonesia

Teddy Jr. Brawner Baguilat - Member of the House of Representatives, Philippines

Fiona Bruce MP - Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, United Kingdom

Anson Chan - former Chief Secretary, Hong Kong

Dr John Dayal – Writer and human rights activist, India

Dr Thomas Farr – former Director of the Office of International Religious Freedom, State Department, United States

Garnett Genuis MP – House of Commons, Canada

Roger Haddad - Member of Parliament, Sweden

Andrew Khoo – former Co-chair, Malaysian Bar Council Human Rights Committee, Malaysia

David Kilgour – former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, Canada

Emily Lau - former Chair of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong

Jung-hoon Lee – former Ambassador for Human Rights, Republic of Korea

Martin Lee – founder of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong

Anastasia Lin – actress and former Miss World Canada

Professor Mahfud MD - former Chief Justice of Constitutional Court, Indonesia

David Matas – human rights lawyer, Canada

Andrew Mitchell MP – former Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom

Goenawan Mohamad - Writer and Founder of Tempo Magazine, Indonesia

Bishop Michael Nazir-ali – former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, United Kingdom

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC – former chief prosecutor in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, United Kingdom

Birgitta Ohlsson - Member of Parliament and former Minister for EU Affairs, Sweden

Kasit Piromya - former Foreign Minister, Thailand

Dr. M. Imdadun Rahmat - former Chairperson and Member of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, Indonesia

Grover Joseph Rees – former US Ambassador to Timor-Leste, United States

Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC – former British Foreign Secretary, United Kingdom

Charles Santiago – Member of the House of Representatives, Malaysia

U Shwe Maung - former Member of the People’s Assembly, Myanmar

Christopher Smith – Member of the House of Representatives, United States

Mu Sochua - former Member of the National Assembly, Cambodia

Eva Kusuma Sundari - Member of the House of Representatives, Indonesia

Caroline Szyber - Member of Parliament, Sweden

Charles Tannock MEP – Member of the European Parliament, United Kingdom




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