BURMA: New web page on imprisoned lawyers launched

(Hong Kong, December 5, 2008) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Friday launched a new web page on the case of two lawyers in Burma who were sentenced in November to four months’ imprisonment for contempt of court.

The Supreme Court lawyers, U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein, were convicted and jailed without opportunity to defend themselves after they submitted a letter to a court on behalf of clients saying that the clients “no longer had faith in the judicial process”.

“This case demonstrates how the courts in Burma are anything but genuine courts and are just arms of the state for oppressing ordinary citizens and professionals trying to do their jobs,” Basil Fernando, director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group said.

“Although it is by no means the worst of the many cases and incidents in these courts during recent times, it deserves close study because it reveals how it is not possible even to do the basic work of a lawyer in them without suffering sanction and retribution,” he said.

The web page includes statements and appeals that the AHRC has issued on the case as well as a resolution of a group of jurists and lawyers recently gathered in Hong Kong, letters and analysis by groups like the International Bar Association and Burma Lawyers’ Council, and links to other relevant materials.

“The purpose of the page is not only to highlight this particular case but also to ask what is the meaning of ‘contempt of court’ in a place that the courts are themselves already beneath contempt?” Fernando said.

“Contempt of court is only meaningful where courts actually function as they are supposed to. In Burma the whole notion of contempt of court is absurd,” he said.

“This is the sort of point that discussions about law and government in Burma need to come to if we are to make any sense of what is going on there at all,” Fernando observed.

The web page can be accessed at http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/burma-lawyers.

The web page will be updated constantly and materials added over time. It includes contents in both English and Burmese.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-039-2008
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),