UN experts concerned on incommunicado detention, torture
Like the Rohingyas, ethnic Rakhine men and boys are being subjected to torture by the Myanmar military, prompting alarm among human rights experts.
Unlike the Rohingyas, most of whom are Muslims, the majority of people currently in Rakhine state follow Buddhism.
The Myanmar military is allegedly using incommunicado detention in northern Rakhine and Chin state, with torture and ill-treatment of detainees resulting in a number of deaths in custody since the outbreak of armed conflict in December, 2018, according to three UN human rights experts – Yanghee Lee, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Incommunicado detention is generally understood as a situation of detention in which an individual is denied access to family members, an attorney, or an independent physician.
“The practice of incommunicado detention must be immediately brought to an end. Detainees’ right to a fair trial, including access to a lawyer, must be upheld,” the experts are quoted as saying by a news release forwarded by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
“There must be a credible and independent investigation into the allegations of torture and inhuman treatment, deaths in custody, and reliance on forced confessions in cases involving Arakan Army-related allegations. All perpetrators of such violations must be held accountable,” they said.
The experts cited the case of Naing Aung Htun, who was held in incommunicado detention from August 8-21 and allegedly given electric shocks by soldiers, after which he confessed to having ties to the Arakan Army insurgent group.
“We are distressed by the use of incommunicado detention where individuals are suspected of being associates of the Arakan Army,” the UN experts said, adding that It is essential for detained people to be able to communicate with the outside world, especially with family members and their lawyer.
“We are especially concerned because incommunicado detention may facilitate torture,” the release added
The experts’ concern about the use of incommunicado detention is heightened due to reports of at least 15 deaths in custody of men suspected to be associates of the Arakan Army. The military has said that it is investigating these deaths, and experts have called for the results of the investigation to be made public and to hold any perpetrators accountable.
Naing Aung Htun was among the inhabitants of Kyaukyan village in Buthidaung, northern Rakhine, as well as around 50 others displaced from neighbouring villages, who were rounded up by the Myanmar military on August 8. Five men were arrested on suspicion of being associates of the Arakan Army and held incommunicado.
They appeared in court in Buthidaung on August 13, where they were charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law 2014. Four of them were released on August 27.
Naing Aung Htun’s father said his son had sustained injuries to his face and was complaining of pain in his chest and back, headaches and being unable to chew. He received medical treatment at a civilian hospital before being transferred to a military hospital for three days, and was then returned to detention.
“There must be an investigation into the allegations that Naing Aung Htun was tortured, and he must receive appropriate medical attention. His right to a fair trial must be upheld, such that any confession he made as a result of torture should be excluded from evidence against him,” said the experts.
The incommunicado detention of five men arrested in Kyaukyan village is not an isolated occurrence, they said, adding that they have received information about several other cases of such detention of Rakhine men and boys charged with terrorism offences.