Conflicts & War

Myanmar death sentences soar since coup

Bangkok, May 24 (EFE).- Last year’s military coup in Myanmar has caused a sharp increase in the number of death sentences, which rose to 86 in 2021 compared to just one in the previous year, according to a report by Amnesty International, published Tuesday.

The report warns of the “alarming increase” in the use of the death penalty under martial law imposed in parts of Myanmar, where military courts have tried civilian cases since the military coup, “leading to convictions without the right to appeal.”

The organization said that of the nearly 90 people “arbitrarily sentenced to death,” 26 were sentenced in absentia, adding that these sentences have been perceived as “a selective campaign against protesters and journalists.”

Most of the convictions occurred in areas of the country where martial law is in force for alleged violence against soldiers or supporters of the military regime.

One to catch the most attention was in January against Phyo Zayar Thaw, a politician from the National League for Democracy, the party of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thaw was convicted of violating the anti-terrorism law, although the media close to the board did not give more details about his alleged crimes.

Multiple death sentences are also frequent, such as the one a military court handed in November against 21 people for their alleged participation in attacks against military objectives that caused the death of four people. Trials were held behind closed doors and without guarantees, according to human rights groups.

The martial law imposed by the military in parts of the country allows the death penalty to be applied for crimes of treason.

Despite the large increase in sentences, there were no executions in 2021 in Myanmar, where in recent years there have never been more than 10 death sentences, the majority for murders, and where there is no data of no executions since 1988.

The report said that “before February 2021 (date of the coup), known death sentences were imposed sporadically for murder and generally commuted through multiple pardons,” which remains possible under General Min Aung Hlaing’s regime.

The organization said that of the 86 convicted, two were minors when they committed the alleged crimes and one suffered from a mental disability.

“Available information indicates that the proceedings were summary, with the accused unable to access legal representation,” the report reads.

The organization said it detected a “worrying increase” in executions and death sentences in 2021 in the world, with a rise of 20 percent compared to the previous year as a result, among other factors, of the end of the restrictions by Covid-19.

The military coup plunged Myanmar into a deep political, social and economic crisis, and opened a spiral of violence with new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war the country has experienced for decades.

At least 1,858 people have died as a result of the violent repression carried out by police and soldiers, who have shot to kill peaceful and unarmed protesters, according to data collected by the NGO Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners in Myanmar. EFE


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