Public Order, Violence against Speakers / Impunity
Perozo and others v. Venezuela
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Closed Contracts Expression
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A freelance Burmese journalist, Aung Kyaw Naing (also known as “Par Gyi”), who reported on conflicts at the Thai border, was murdered by military officers while in their custody. The court ruled that the journalist had been murdered but no individual or party has been prosecuted for the incident.
“Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.”
In October 2014, the Irrawaddy, an independent Burmese independent newspaper, reported that it had received a statement issued by the Burmese military which stated that Par Gyi had been arrested and taken into custody near Kyaikmayaw Township in the southeastern state of Mon on September 30, 2014. The journalist was reportedly covering a fight between the Burmese Armed Forces and a group of fighters from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA). According to the statement, on October 4, 2014, the journalist was shot death by the military officers while still in detention. His body was buried without his family’s notice at Shwe War Chong, a village outside Kyaikmayaw.
The forensic examination showed that the journalist had been shot five times, and that one of the shots had been fired from point blank range. His exhumed body showed signs of torture such as a cracked skull, broken ribs, and broken arms. The military statement claimed that Par Gyi had attempted to steal a gun and escape detention before the incident occurred. He had been arrested because the military wanted to interrogate him over the whereabouts of DKBA fighters. The statement also claimed that Par Gyi was believed to be a “communications captain” of the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO), the political wing of the DKBA. This affiliation has been denied.
Following the incident the Myanmar Human Rights Commission (MHRC), under the command of President Thein Sein, conducted an investigation. Its 16-page report mainly described the fighting between the two armed groups and devoted little attention to the details of the case.
On 27 November 2014, two military officers who had been alleged to have been involved in the murder were released unconditionally following a military trial held behind closed doors. Their release was made public only several months later, and the announcement of their release claimed that the officers had been acquitted under Section 71 of the Defence Service Act and Section 304 of the Criminal Code of Procedure. The verdict was approved by the commander of the Southeast Command, and the Defence Ministry stated that the actions taken against the officers had complied with the 2008 Constitution, the Code of Criminal Procedures, and the Military Act. Following the verdict, the MHRC recommended the case to be tried by a civilian court “for attainment of the fundamental rights of the citizens and also for transparency in the eyes of the public.”
The case was heard by the Kyaikmayaw Township Court, a civilian court, from April to June 2015. It heard testimony from a motorbike driver who was the last person to have spoken to the journalist before his arrest. He recalled that Par Giy had just returned from a work trip and that he had asked the driver to take him to a bus station. Both of them were stopped by military officers when they passed a monastery, and Par Gyi was arrested. He stated that a military truck came to take the journalist away a few minutes later.
The Court then heard from the two military officers. They reportedly testified that Par Gyi asked Private Naing Lin Tun to go outside, and that a scuffle ensued. Lance Corporal Kyaw Kyaw Aung then arrived on the scene and shot the journalist from behind, killing him.
The Court ruled that the journalist had been murdered, but, as a civilian court, could not hold any military officers responsible for his death. Following the verdict, the journalist’s wife, Ma Thandar and her lawyer, Robert San Aung, announced that they would appeal. However, on March 21, 2016, the commander of the Kyaikmayaw Township Police Station reportedly sent a letter to Ma Thandar stating that the public prosecutor declared it to be “erroneous” to open a criminal case against military officers.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The proceedings are considered to have many flaws, starting with the acquittal of the two military officers in a closed trial in military courts. There were procedural irregularities in the civil case that followed. It was reported that Par Gyi’s wife had initially not been notified that the case was being tried by a civilian court. Furthermore, during the proceedings the public prosecutor of the court was transferred to another court, and the Court that heard the case had no jurisdiction over the military officers, and so only heard from the suspects as witnesses. Claims that the journalist had been involved with armed resistance fighters were not substantiated.
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