Myanmar September 2012

The Law Society of Upper Canada Condemns the Detention and Imprisonment of Human Rights Lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min

The Law Society of Upper Canada publicly condemns the detention and imprisonment of Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, and the revocation of his license to practice law, for acts related to his defense of peaceful political protesters in 2008.

In October, 2008 Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was one of two criminal defence lawyers representing 11 young protesters who were arrested in September 2008 for having peacefully marched on Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi's birthday, wearing t-shirts with her picture on them.  Reliable reports indicate that in October 2008, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was found guilty in absentia for the "interruption and insulting [a] judiciary proceeding" and sentenced to six months imprisonment after his clients turned their backs on the judicial panel in protest over the case against them.

Reliable reports indicate that Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, who fled Myanmar in 2008 for fear of arrest and detention for political reasons, returned to Myanmar in 2012 and sought to be reinstated as a lawyer.  Instead, reports indicate that on the same day that names were removed from Myanmar's Blacklist, he was arrested and imprisoned on the basis of the October 2008 judgment rendered against him arising out of acts undertaken by him in the course of defending peaceful political protesters.

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that 'governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.'

Therefore, the Law Society of Upper Canada calls on the government of Myanmar to,

          a.  immediately and unconditionally release Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min and guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity;

          b.  reinstate Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min as a lawyer;

          c.  put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min as well as all human rights defenders in Myanmar;

          d. conform with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, as well as with Article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individual and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the […] Declaration";

          e. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Myanmar.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 44,000 lawyers and 4,200 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Myanmar in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law and democracy.

For more information, contact: Josée Bouchard, Equity Advisor, at 416-947-3984 or jbouchar@lsuc.on.ca