Media Statement: CENTHRA Condemns Assassination of U Ko Ni



The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA) condemns in no uncertain terms the assassination of U Ko Ni, a prominent lawyer and advisor to the National League of Democracy (NLD) in Burma last 29 January. We express condolences to his grieving family and friends.

U Ko Ni was one of the most prominent Muslim human rights advocates in Burma, and a consistent fighter for freedom of religion or belief and inter-religious harmony. He was a rare voice among Burma’s political leaders in defending the persecuted Rohingyas, who are not recognised as citizens, once saying: “If someone is born in Burma and lives there all their lives, we have to regard them as a citizen of Burma. It is harmful if people are divided into ‘classes’”.

The Myanmar authorities have yet to identify those behind the murder, and whether the act was politically or religiously motivated. This notwithstanding, we express our concern that anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising throughout Burma over the past five years, involving periodic outbreaks of violence and widespread hate speech. This could have been one of the contributing factors behind U Ko Ni’s assassination.

CENTHRA notes that Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for everyone to be afforded the right to life, liberty and security whilst Article 8 of the same entitles every person to enjoy equal protection of the law without differentiation. These principles are also reflected in Articles 2, 11 and 12 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

Additionally, Principle 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, mandates governments to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference; that they are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. Principle 17 states that where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

In this regard, it is manifestly clear that the Burmese government has failed its international human rights obligations, in particular those owed towards its own lawyers. CENTHRA calls for an independent investigation into the killing and swift action be taken against the perpetrators. The death of U Ko Ni must be investigated impartially and prosecuted if evidence warrants it. Too often in Burma such forward actions are not undertaken.

Azril Mohd Amin is a lawyer and chief executive, Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)

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