Human rights educators on trial in Burma



Dear Colleagues,

Human rights educators in Burma/Myanmar are in mortal danger and in urgent
need of international support.

On December 10, 2006, human rights activists in Burma celebrated the 58th
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their first
annual meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters. The autocratic
military junta - the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA)
refers to the country as "Myanmar", but human rights groups use the
country’s historic name of Burma. The Burmese founding members of
the new human rights group recognize the hazards of even talking about the
Universal Declaration. On Human Rights Day, they stated:

"We are hoping for the best and prepare for the worst. We dare to face
everything for Human Rights. So we need the recognition of the
International Community, especially the United Nations." At their 2006
inaugural meeting, the Human Rights Day proclamation of Louise Arbour, the
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was enthusiastically received by the
group.

Human Rights Defenders and Promoters have engaged in peaceful programs of
popular education for human rights. The government's response has been
brutal. On April 18, 2007, a group of about 100 USDA supporters carrying
clubs and sharpened bamboo sticks attacked the activists after which two
human rights educators were arrested. Four other activists not involved in
the attacks were also arrested. Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay sustained
serious injuries and were admitted to Rangoon General Hospital following
the attack.

On Friday, May 4, 2007, the human rights educators faced trial in a local
court in Hinthada Township, Irrawaddy Division. Teaching the provisions of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is evidently considered so
dangerous by the government that members of Human Rights Defenders and
Promoters were denied bail. The on-line Burmese news service,
<Irrawaddy.org> reported that six human rights activists and teachers
"were jailed in Hinthada for causing public mischief". Noting Burma's
responsibilities under the UN Charter (Articles 55 and 56) to promote
universal human rights, the defendants said they were "operating within
the law during their rights campaign in Hinthada when they were attacked
and beaten by a group of people who operate outside the law."

Professor Richard Pierre Claude, whose training manual, Popular Education
for Human Rights (http://www.hrea.org/pubs/claude00.html ) is used by
Human Rights Defenders and Promoters urged human rights educators
worldwide to draw the plight of their Burmese colleagues to the attention
of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
<urgent-action@ohchr.org>, to contact Mr. Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and to register
their concern with the Myanmar Embassy in their respective countries.





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