Torture victims take appeal to top court

The families of three men tortured and jailed last year are taking an appeal over their sentences to Burma’s Supreme Court.

The three, from Mon state in eastern Burma, had been arrested in July 2010 along with two others under accusation that they held ties with the opposition Karen National Union, whose armed wing has been fighting the ruling junta for nearly six decades. 

One of the men, San Shwe, died during the initial interrogation, while Law Kwat was later released after agreeing a fee with the army. The remaining three, Hla Phone, Maung Thein, Pow Lar – all of Bilin in Mon state, where the arrest was made – are serving three-year sentences.

A relative of one of the men said under condition of anonymity that during a recent visit to the prison he had been shown the injuries caused by torture, and that all three men had been assaulted during the interrogation.

“They said San Shwe was killed in the interrogation and his body dragged [out of the cell] like a dog.”

Previous appeals to lower-level courts over the sentencing had failed, and the three families were now preparing to petition Burma’s top court in the capital, Naypyidaw.

“We are not looking to put the blame on anyone or to get compensation,” the relative said. “As Buddhists, we just blame it on karma. We just want our loved one released from prison and the family of [San Shwe] be informed about his death so they can hold a funeral.”

Aye Myint, head of the Guiding Star legal advocacy group, criticised the arrests and treatment of the men.

“The civilians were arrested in downtown [Bilin] and we know that [the army] disposed of the body of the man killed in interrogation without letting the people know – we have photo evidence of that.

“Ko Law Kwat was tortured with a method where a plastic material is melted down with fire and poured on his body, including the genitals. It looked pretty bad from what I saw in the photos. We also have photo evidence of San Shwe’s body being buried.”

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