Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday called on authorities in Myanmar to drop charges against nine peaceful protesters [press release] who are facing criminal charges for demonstrating without a permit in Rangoon in September on International Peace Day. The demonstrators were calling for peace in Myanmar's war-torn Kachin State [HRW report, PDF; JURIST news archive]. According to HRW, the protesters have been repeatedly summoned to police stations and charged with violating section 18 of the 2011 Law Relating to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession [Article19 analysis, PDF], which requires a permit for demonstrations. HRW called on Myanmar to reform the peaceful assembly law. HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson stated:
The government's prosecution of peaceful demonstrators reveals troubling limits on Burma's respect for basic rights. Burma's leaders may be saying the right things at global forums and in bilateral talks, but their reform rhetoric rings hollow on the streets and in the fields where protesters assemble.HRW stated that authorities have been using the Peaceful Assembly Law at their discretion to prosecute rather than protect individuals exercising their basic rights.
Concern over Myanmar's human rights record has been growing recently. In October HRW called for an end to the sectarian violence [JURIST report] between the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. In August Physicians for Human Rights reported that Myanmar's army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Earlier that month HRW accused [JURIST report] Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the human rights abuses that have occurred as a result.