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Death sentences aimed at instilling fear among people, say experts

UN Special Rapporteurs Thomas Andrews and Morris Tidball-Binz, fear the development could "signal the start of a spate of executions in a country which has not carried out capital punishment in more than 30 years".

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United Nations: UN independent human rights experts have urged the international community to exert more pressure on Myanmar‘s military rulers in the wake of their decision to move ahead with death sentences against four individuals, including two prominent opponents of the regime. 

UN Special Rapporteurs Thomas Andrews and Morris Tidball-Binz, fear the development could “signal the start of a spate of executions in a country which has not carried out capital punishment in more than 30 years”.

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Notably, last year in February, Myanmar’s military staged a coup against the then State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint’s government, citing fraud in the elections that took place in 2020.

“The illegitimate military junta is providing the international community with further evidence of its disregard for human rights as it prepares to hang pro-democracy activists,” UN’s official website quoted the experts as saying.

“These death sentences, handed down by an illegitimate court of an illegitimate junta, are a vile attempt at instilling fear amongst the people of Myanmar.”  

The military seized power in Myanmar in February 2021. Since then, at least 114 people have reportedly been sentenced to death, including 41 in absentia, according to the experts. 

Last week, the junta announced it would execute four people whose appeals had been rejected following closed-door trials. 

They include former legislator Phyo Zeya Thaw and veteran activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as Ko Jimmy, who were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on treason and terrorism charges. 

Phyo Zeya Thaw is a former member of parliament with the National League for Democracy, the party of imprisoned leader Aung San Suu Kyi, overthrown in the military coup. Ko Jimmy is a leader of the 88 Generation activist group that stood up to the regime of former dictator Ne Win. 

“The junta’s announced decision to execute the activists illustrates how the military seeks to use all apparatuses of the State to persecute those that oppose its attempt to return Myanmar to military authoritarian rule,” UN experts said. 

In the face of increasing human rights violations, they called for the international community, and countries serving on the UN Security Council in particular, to exert greater pressure on the military.  

“Without imposing serious costs on the military for its attacks on fundamental rights, we should expect increasing numbers of these death penalty pronouncements from the junta,” they said.  

“The international community – chiefly Member States and the Security Council – must demonstrate that these actions will not go unpunished and do more to target the military’s needs for money, weapons and legitimacy.” 

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