Death sentences handed down by secret Myanmar courts shock UN rights chief

Latest convictions bring total number of people sentenced to death to 139

Police stand guard as they wait for more protests against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. Reuters
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The UN's human rights chief on Friday expressed his shock that almost 140 people have been sentenced to death by closed-door tribunals in Myanmar since last year's military coup, with fresh convictions handed down this week.

“The military continues to hold proceedings in secretive courts in violation of basic principles of fair trial and contrary to core judicial guarantees of independence and impartiality,” Volker Turk said, calling for the suspension of all executions and a return to a moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

“Military courts have consistently failed to uphold any degree of transparency, contrary to the most basic due process or fair trial guarantees.”

On November 30, Myanmar’s military government handed down death sentences against seven students in Yangon for taking part in anti-regime protests and participating in the resistance against the junta’s rule.

Last February, democratically elected members of Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy were deposed by the military, returning the country to rule by junta after a brief experiment with democracy.

Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against the military's actions. Thousands were killed in the ensuing crackdown and many more were detained.

About 1,700 of the 16,500 people arrested for opposing the coup have been tried and convicted in secret by ad hoc tribunals.

The latest convictions bring the total number of people sentenced to death to 139.

The UN has received reports of at least four additional death sentences that have been issued for youth activists.

Mr Turk said the actions of the military are not in keeping with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' “five-point consensus” that the body recently recommitted to upholding at a summit in November.

Updated: December 02, 2022, 6:03 PM