The decision of the Myanmar junta to enforce death sentences against four individuals, including two prominent activists, marks the start of what could be a spate of death pronouncements, two UN experts warned on Friday.
Thomas Andrews and Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteurs in Myanmar on human rights and on extrajudicial arbitrary executions, respectively, also called for increased “international pressure on the brutal military regime.”
“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,” the experts said.
“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 experts stressed that one of the condemned individuals is a former member of parliament from the National League for Democracy, while another is a leader of the 88 Generation activist group that stood up to former dictator Ne Win’s regime.
The four individuals were tried and convicted in military tribunals and reportedly without access to legal counsel during their rejected appeals, violating international human rights law.
They were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on charges of treason and terrorism. If the executions proceed, they will be the first judicial executions in Myanmar since 1988.
‘Greater pressure on junta’
In the face of increasing human rights violations, the experts urged the international community to exert greater pressure on Myanmar’s 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 experts said the international community – chiefly UN member states and the Security Council – needs to demonstrate that the junta’s actions will not go unpunished and that more be done to target the military’s needs for money, weapons, and legitimacy.
“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,” they said.
The UN experts stressed that the imposition of the death penalty was taking place alongside the military’s extrajudicial killings of civilians, estimated now to stand at nearly 2,000.
They said the Martial Law Order 3/2021, illegitimately decreed by the Myanmar junta in March 2021, provides for the application of the death penalty for 23 vague and broadly defined offenses.