The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is calling for the release of an air force officer in Burma who is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for posting articles online critical of the armed forces. Ne Lynn Dwe was taken by military intelligence from his barracks in December 2011 and held incommunicado before being sentenced in April 2012 by a military court martial, before which he had no legal representative. He allegedly suffered torture and has had psychological problems since.
According to AHRC, on the night of December 12th 2011, officers from military intelligence came to Ne Lynn Dwe, 38, at his camp in Myeik, southern Burma, and told him to go with them by aircraft to Rangoon. Once there, Ne Lynn Dwe was detained and accused of posting some 70 articles to the Internet since 2009 detailing military life and the hardships and difficulties faced by ordinary service personnel. In March 2012 a court martial convened to hear the case, and in April it convicted him and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for violating the Emergency Provisions Act by doing actions to undermine the military; and, the Electronic Transactions Law, for using the Internet illegally.
While in custody, Ne Lynn Dwe was allegedly tortured, and treated inhumanely. He was held without his family having access to him. Each time he was taken for interrogation, his face was covered and he heard only the voices of his interrogators. According to AHRC, they allegedly injected him with a substance that made him lose his sense of self and answer questions uninhibitedly. While being held in custody he was kept handcuffed and for some time was allowed to wear only shorts. Later, he was given one sarong and one shirt for the duration of his four months in custody while awaiting court martial, as well as during the court martial process.
As a result, he is suffering psychological problems. Specifically, he is not able to recall names or other basic information, and sometimes cannot speak clearly. Furthermore, when the case came to court martial he did not have a lawyer. His family since been able to obtain the records of the trial, and therefore what information is known about it has been drawn together by them from visits to the central prison since Ne Lynn Dwe’s conviction. Throughout the duration of his custody, from time of being taken to Rangon until after his court martial, Ne Lynn Dwe could not meet his family, or any other people.
Not only did Ne Lynn Dwe himself suffer but his family also was directly and indirectly affected. After Ne Lynn Dwe’s arrest, his possessions were not returned to the family and the military did not pay his salary for his time in detention prior to conviction. The family has also lost his military pension and was in February 2012 forced to leave the military accommodation provided to them.
Additionally, aside from Ne Lynn Dwe, two other officers were also imprisoned regarding related alleged offences. They are Acting Major Min Htun Thein, who received seven years, and Captain Chit Ko, who received 10.
The laws under which Ne Lynn Dwe was convicted are incompatible with human rights and with the democratic values that the government of Burma now claims to be espousing, says AHRC. The Emergency Provisions Act is completely outdated and inapplicable to the current times, in which no emergency situation exists of the sort for which that law was framed. Legislators have made submissions for the law to be revoked and the organization urges that these submissions be treated seriously. According to AHRC, ”The Electronic Transactions Law is a malodorous piece of legislation whereby practically any form of Internet use could conceivably be cast as a criminal offence, for which a convicted person is liable to imprisonment of periods that are completely disproportionate to the alleged crimes of the sort that the accused in this case was supposed to have committed. Therefore, these laws ought also to be revoked.”
The AHRC is aware of other similar cases in recent years in which army personnel have been convicted of offenses over the use of Internet or similar; however, most are reluctant to speak up against their imprisonment for fear that matters could be made worse.
AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights in Myanmar; on torture, and on freedom of expression; and, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and regional office in Bangkok, calling for their interventions into this matter. The organization asks for help writing to the Burmese government authorities to urge that Ne Lynn Dwe be immediately released from imprisonment.