ALTSEAN-Burma & ICAR Partner: THE OBSERVATORY - JOINT PRESS RELEASE
BURMA: Investigate murder of lawyer Ko Ni, take measures to protect human rights defenders
Paris-Geneva-Bangkok, January 30, 2017 - The Burmese Government must immediately conduct a swift, thorough, and impartial investigation into the murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and member of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and bring those responsible for his death to justice, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) and the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma) said today.
“With the murder of Ko Ni, Burma loses an important voice of moderation and a courageous advocate for religious tolerance and the rule of law. The NLD-led Government must quickly get to the bottom of this appalling murder to show that it is serious about combating rampant impunity and religious intolerance,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
On January 29, 2017, Ko Ni, 65, was fatally shot in the head at point-blank range outside Rangoon International Airport. The suspected gunman was later arrested and detained for questioning by police. Ko Ni had just returned from Indonesia, where he had joined a Burmese Government-organized trip to discuss democracy and conflict resolution. The program included a panel discussion about religious violence in Burma’s Rakhine State.
In June 2016, Ko Ni played a crucial role in the establishment of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association, an organisation aimed at providing legal assistance to members of Muslim communities in Burma.
“The tragic death of Ko Ni must not become the latest case of an unsolved death of a human rights defender in Burma. Authorities must deliver justice in this case and those of all other slain human rights defenders and take all necessary measures to provide protection for human rights defenders at risk,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
The murder of Ko Ni is the latest in a series of killings targeting Burmese human rights defenders that have gone unpunished over the last three years.
On June 4, 2014, San Tun, a 47-year-old land and environmental rights defender and local NLD leader in Hopong Township, Shan State, was shot and killed after two unidentified men abducted him from his home. San Tun had assisted local farmers to petition authorities for the return of their land that had been seized by the Burma military (Tatmadaw).
On October 4, 2014, Aung Kyaw Naing, better known as “Par Gyi”, a 49-year-old freelance journalist, was killed while in military custody after being detained by Tatmadaw soldiers in Mon State’s Kyaikmaraw Township. Aung Kyaw Naing had regularly reported on ethnic issues along the Burma-Thai border and contributed to various Rangoon-based newspapers.
On July 2, 2015, Johnny, a 51-year-old Karen land rights defender and NLD Chairman in Kawthinshu Village, Hpa-an Township, Karen State, was shot dead by unknown assailants in front of his house in Eindea Village, Hpa-an Township. Johnny had helped local villagers in several land grabbing cases.
On November 19, 2016, Chit Pandaing, better known as “Eh Paw Tel”, a 22-year-old Karen woman human rights defender working with the Mine Advisory Group (MAG), was stabbed to death by an unidentified individual in Dawei Town, Tenasserim Region. Chit Pandaing strongly advocated against land confiscation and the negative environmental impacts of mining in Dawei and other Townships in Tenasserim Region.
On December 13, 2016, the body of Soe Moe Tun, a 35-year-old journalist with the Eleven Media Group, was found in Monywa, Sagaing Region. Wounds on his head and an apparent fractured skull led police to believe Soe Moe Tun had been beaten to death with a blunt object. Soe Moe Tun was known for his investigative work on illegal logging and timber smuggling in several areas of Sagaing Region, including Monywa and Sagaing Townships.
Although authorities launched investigations into the above-mentioned cases, no one has ever been held accountable for any of the killings.
“Ko Ni’s assassination, if unaddressed, will have serious impacts on human security in Burma. The international community must act now to ensure the Burmese Government reverses the alarming trend exemplified by this crime,” said ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
ALTSEAN-Burma is FIDH’s member organisation for Burma.
For more information, please contact:
• FIDH: Arthur Manet / Audrey Couprie: +33143552518 (Paris); Andrea Giorgetta: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva)
• ALTSEAN: Debbie Stothard: +66816861652 (Bangkok)