Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific

BURMA: Villager and monk brutally and bizarrely tortured for a week to confess to rape and murder

See here for original post on AHRC website.
 
January 23, 2013

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-006-2013

23 January 2013

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BURMA: Villager and monk brutally and bizarrely tortured for a week to confess to rape and murder

ISSUES: Torture; arbitrary arrest and detention; impunity
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received extensive information about the case of a young man and a monk whom police accused of raping and murdering a young woman and tortured brutally for a week in 2010 in order to force a confession with which to convict the two. Despite the retraction of the confession in court, the judge convicted the two men and omitted any reference to the alleged torture from the verdict. For the last two years the two have languished in prison. They have now appealed to the president for their release.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The AHRC has obtained detailed depositions of the two men accused in this case concerning torture that they both sustained for over a week. A summary of some details of the torture is contained here. Some more details are in the sample letter below.

Photo of San Win (left) and U Thubodha (right)The police arrested the two accused, San Win and U Thubodha, following the alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl in a village in Monywa district at the end of March 2010. After the girl’s body was found the next morning, the authorities called all able males in the village to the school, where they questioned each and ordered them to strip off their shirts. By that time, the actual alleged offender, the son of the head of the village administration, had already left the village. They made a number of arrests, including of San Win, whom they held in custody in the village illegally, and the next day took back to a police station.

Although the police led San Win to believe that he would be released, they began to torture him brutally on April 4. That night, the police forced him to strip his clothes and made him kneel on sharp gravel with his hands cuffed behind his back, during which time three policemen assaulted him with truncheons on rotation. One policeman hit his penis with a stick and others held down San Win and ran a roller back and forth over his shins under heavy pressure; a technique that causes excruciating pain and leads the skin to peel off the legs.

For the next two days and nights the police held San Win in that lockup without giving him food or water and keeping his hands cuffed behind his back and chained to the cell bars. The chain was only long enough to stand or sit, preventing him from lying down and sleeping. On April 7, they took him to the township police headquarters where they forced him into stress positions, such as imitating riding a horse. Because he was exhausted from lack of sleep, food and water, San Win kept falling to the floor, whereupon a policeman would kick him and force him to get back up. They repeated this type of torture the next day. They also hoisted San Win off the ground, keeping him dangling with his arms bent up behind his head for perhaps an hour, after which they lowered him so that his feet could touch the ground but did not untie him, instead leaving him like that for the night.

Again on the night of April 11 a number of police took San Win into an interrogation room and assaulted him by punching him in the sternum, and hitting his face. They forced him to sit cross-legged and face down while a police officer pushed his knees into San Win’s back and thrust his stomach in, causing him to gasp and convulse. They asked him if he wanted the torture to go on for a month, and said that beyond ten days he would not survive. At 9pm that night the police came in drunk and in a bizarre ritual forced him to put on the clothes of the murder victim, while they jeered and yelled the girl’s name, saying that she herself had uncovered her murderer. After San Win took off the clothes he was forced to stay kneeling throughout the night.

On April 12, the police told San Win to sign some documents, but San Win refused and a policeman punched and slapped him until he was dizzy. They guided him to make a signature on some papers. Later they tried to force him to confess before a judge, but when he refused they did not press the matter because they already had a confession from his co-accused, U Thubodha.

The police called U Thubodha for questioning at the Winmanar Police Station on the afternoon of April 3. They took him into a side room and assaulted him. When he cried out, they stuffed paper into his mouth and then forced him to kneel on sharp gravel. One kicked him savagely in the back and punched him in the stomach. He hit the monk’s forehead onto the hard floor, causing it to swell up. Then he forced him also to wear the young girl’s underwear and accused the monk of using sorcery to entrap her. He also went and got the girl’s slippers and slapped and rubbed the monk in the face with them. He later brought the girl’s top and forced him to wear it.

On April 4 the police took Thubodha to another room and strung him from the ceiling the same like San Win. While dangling, police hit him in various parts of his body and threatened to kill him if he did not admit to the crime. The torture continued in this manner for about half an hour and they went out for tea. They got a rope and made it into a noose. They tied it around his neck and pulled him up so that he was on his tip-toes and gasping for air and again threatened him to admit to the crime saying they would kill him if he lied. They also stuck three needles through the middle of his tongue and pulling again on the noose asked him if he wanted to die.

The police stopped the torture for a while after a warning that he might die from the township police chief, but then started to beat him again and again pulled him up by rope so that he was dangling, and told him that if he didn’t speak up then he would die that night, and that if they killed him nothing would happen to them. One hit him repeatedly with a stick, but when he started bleeding the policeman stopped. He made the monk kneel on sharp gravel and say repeatedly that he was the one who did it to the girl.

Finally, because he could not bear the torture any longer Thubodha said that he would say and sign whatever the police wanted. They said that if they did as they said, he would get food and water, which he had not received since his time in custody. They gave him some water, let him bathe and put him back in the lockup. Later, at the township headquarters, however, the torture continued. Some police burned the hair around his anus with lit cigarettes, and one pulled down his uniform pants and stuck his penis at the monk’s anus, asking him if he had done it to the girl like that. They beat him repeatedly.

On April 6, the police instructed Thubodha on how to confess and took him to a judge. But when before the judge the monk refused to confess and said he had been tortured. Rather than doing anything about it, the judge just told the police to take him back. Once back at the headquarters, the torture began again. The police made him hold a grenade and pointed a revolver at him, saying they would kill him. When they again took him to court, this time Thubodha met the same judge but the judge did not ask anything, only falsely recorded that he had no injuries and made him sign documents.

On April 30 the trial of the two accused opened in the district court. Both of the accused testified that they had been tortured for throughout their custody and U Thubodha retracted the confession that he had given. Furthermore, the material evidence was inconclusive. The examining doctor could not find evidence that the girl had been raped prior to her death as the police had claimed. Nonetheless, the district court sentenced the accused based on the confession and on witness testimonies against them that the police had also coerced or cajoled other villagers to give, and presently the two accused are detained in Mandalay jail.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The AHRC has for some years documented cases of brutal torture in ordinary criminal cases in Burma, most recently in the case of Myo Myint Swe, who died in custody and whose body showed extensive evidence of professional torture techniques: AHRC-UAC-176-2012.

These cases and others that the AHRC has documented put pay to the misconception that torture in Burma was essentially associated with the cases of political prisoners and that therefore in the current situation as political conditions change the incidence of torture will decline significantly. Although police officers are having to be more cautious as the domestic media reports more openly on cases like this sort, it is clear that the use of torture is widespread and habitual, as in other countries in the region, and that it will take systemic measures to eliminate. Indeed, this case shows the extent to which all parts of the system, including judges and doctors who come into contact with victims of torture, are complicit in these crimes.

For many more cases and issues concerning human rights in Burma, visit the AHRC’s country homepage: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to the following government authorities to urge that the two accused in this case be released from prison, the murder case reopened, and a special investigation be conducted into the use of torture in this case with a view to laying criminal charges against the police involved.

Please note that for the purpose of the letter Burma is referred to by its official name, Myanmar.

Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights in Myanmar; on torture, and on extrajudicial killings; and, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and regional office in Bangkok, calling for their interventions into this matter.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Two men tortured for a week and forced to confess to rape and murder

Names of victims:
1. San Win, a.k.a. Khin Maung, 36, peasant, resident of Sin Oe Village, Kani Township, Monywa District, Sagaing Region
2. Thaung Paing, a.k.a. U Thubodha, monk, 34, resident of Letpansu Monastery, Kani Township; both victims currently detained in Mandalay Central Prison

Names of persons involved:
1. Inspector Aung Ko, Commander, Winmanar Police Station
2. Sub Inspector Kyaw Thet
3. Sub Inspector Naing Lin
4. Sub Inspector Khin Maung Nyo
5. Tin Aung Moe, police officer of unknown rank
6. Constable Aye Min
7. Constable Win Htun
8. Commander, Kani Township Police
9. U Ya Aung, Chairman, Sin-oe Village administration

Date of incident: 1-13 April 2010
Place of incident: Various police facilities in Kani Township
Charge: Murder, section 302(1)(c), Penal Code (San Win), and abetment of murder, section 302(1)(c) and 114 (Thaung Paing)
Court cases: Criminal Case No. 8/2010, Monywa District Court; sentenced to death on 7 October 2010; Criminal Appeal No. 220/2010, Supreme Court (Mandalay), rejected

I am writing at length to disclose to you the shocking extent of the torture allegedly suffered by a man and a monk accused of raping and murdering an underage girl in 2010. Under pressure to identify culprits, and apparently knowing that the alleged actual culprit—the son of an influential local official—had already left the area, the police went after other targets and forced a confession from one of the two accused after diabolical methods of torture alleged by the two men in detailed depositions recorded while they are in prison. What follows is a relatively short summation of those details.

The police arrested the two accused following the alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl in Sin-oe Village on the night of 31 March 2010. After the girl’s body was found the next morning, the police and township and village administration called all males aged 12 to 50 in the village to the school, where they questioned each and ordered them to strip off their shirts. By that time, the actual alleged offender, the son of the head of the village administration, had already left the village. They made a number of arrests, including of San Win, whom they took to a house and interrogated while handcuffed during the night. The next day they brought him back to the school and continued to interrogate him, throughout the day and that night.

On April 3 the police took a total of eight men from the locality, including San Win, to the Winmanar Police Station, where they put them in the lock up. They took them out and interrogated them one at a time.

According to San Win, when the township commander spoke to him on the first occasion he said that the police had arrested San Win because he had a criminal record only, and they knew that he had no knowledge of the crime, which is to say, they needed to look active in response to the rape and murder in a rural community. He added that they would release San Win in due course and advised him to take it easy.

However, on April 4 a team led by the Winmanar police commander again interrogated San Win for the whole day and he was not fed or given water. That night, the police forced him to strip his clothes and made him kneel on sharp gravel throughout the night with his hands cuffed behind his back, during which time three policemen assaulted him with truncheons on rotation. Whenever he fell they forced him back up. At about 7pm Constable Aye Min under the station commander’s direction hit him repeatedly on the penis with a slender branch. Around 3am a number of police held down San Win and ran a roller back and forth over his shins under heavy pressure.

In the morning time the police under orders from the township commander returned San Win’s clothes and put him back in the cells, handcuffed. Thereafter a couple of police took him to the court to obtain remand, after which he was taken to the Kani Police Station cells. For two days and nights the police held him in that lockup without giving him food or water and keeping his hands cuffed behind his back and chained to the cell bars. The chain was only long enough to stand or sit, preventing him from lying down and sleeping.

On the evening of April 7, police took San Win to the township police headquarters where Sub Inspector Kyaw Thet and Sub Inspector Khin Maung Nyo led him into a darkened room where police forced him into stress positions, such as imitating riding a horse. Because he was exhausted from lack of sleep, food and water, San Win kept falling to the floor, whereupon a policeman would kick him and force him to get back up.

The following day the same two sub inspectors and another officer took him to the Kani hospital not for a check up but to look at his penis and physical condition. According to San Win, he overheard the doctor saying that she did not think he was the person responsible for raping the young girl; however, the police took him back to the station and again forced him into stress positions. Then at about 8pm Inspector Aung Ko arrived with a rope and three other police. They tied the rope to the handcuffs behind San Win’s back and lifted him off the ground, keeping him dangling with his arms bent up behind his head for perhaps an hour, after which they lowered him so that his feet could touch the ground but did not untie him, instead leaving him like that for the night.

Again on the night of April 11 a number of unidentified officers, including one sub inspector, took San Win into an interrogation room and assaulted him by punching him in the sternum, and hitting his face. They forced him to sit cross-legged and face down while a police officer pushed his knees into San Win’s back and thrust his stomach in, causing him to gasp and convulse. They asked him if he wanted the torture to go on for a month, and said that beyond ten days he would not survive.

At 9pm that night Aung Ko and three police came again and forced San Win to remove his clothes. The officers were drunk. Then they gave him the underwear, skirt and top of the murdered girl and forced him to put them on. Although they would not fit San Win, he had to pull them on as far as possible, and from outside the room the police jeered and yelled the girl’s name, saying that she herself had uncovered her murderer. After only about two hours did the police allow him to remove the clothes, and Aung Ko then ordered Aye Min not to let San Win sleep that night but to again force him to kneel the whole time.

On April 12, Aung Ko again came with some subordinates and told San Win to sign some documents, but San Win refused and Kyaw Thet punched and slapped him until he was dizzy. Aung Ko then took forced a pen into his hand and guided a wobbly signature onto the page put in front of him. After that, saying that it was all that he needed, Aung Ko left, and on that day for the first time the police allowed San Win’s family to send him food. The next day, Aung Ko tried to force San Win to give a confession before a judge, but when he refused the policeman said that it did not matter—since he already had the confession of the co-accused.

The police called U Thubodha for questioning at the Winmanar Police Station on the afternoon of April 3. According to Thubodha, fter treating him politely at first they took him into a side room with a single chair and table. Sub Inspector Naing Lin sat and forced him to stand before the table, where Sub Inspector Khin Maung Nyo, Constable Aye Min and Tin Maung Moe hit the monk all over his body. When he cried out, they stuffed paper into his mouth and then forced him to kneel on sharp gravel. After about half an hour, Aung Ko came and kicked him savagely in the back, then punched him in the stomach. He hit the monk’s forehead onto the hard floor, causing it to swell up. Then he forced him also to wear the young girl’s underwear and accused the monk of using sorcery to entrap her. He also went and got the girl’s slippers and slapped and rubbed the monk in the face with them. He later brought the girl’s top and forced him to wear it.

On April 4 the police took Thubodha to another room and strung him from the ceiling the same like San Win. While dangling, Sub Inspector Kyaw Thet and Naing Lin hit him in various parts of his body and threatened to kill him if he did not admit to the crime. The torture continued in this manner for about half an hour and they went out for tea. Around 7am the Kani station commander, Kyaw Thet, Naing Lin and Tin Aung Moe returned with a rope used for leading cattle and tied it into a noose. They tied it around his neck and pulled him up so that he was on his tip-toes and gasping for air and again threatened him to admit to the crime saying they would kill him if he lied. They also stuck three needles through the middle of his tongue and pulling again on the noose asked him if he wanted to die.

Around this time the township police commander came and warned the officers not to torture the accused constantly because if he did die then they would have trouble. They put him back in the cells and removed the handcuffs. However, subsequently the police again began punching and slapping him, and in the evening time Constable Aye Min again cuffed him and brought him into a room with the Kani station chief, Naing Lin, Kyaw Thet, Khin Maung Nyo, Tin Aung Moe and another sub inspector. The chief forced him to kneel and told him that they were not feeding him on orders. They again hit him and pulled him up by rope so that he was dangling, and told him that if he didn’t speak up then he would die that night, and that if they killed him nothing would happen to them. Later the Kani station chief hit him repeatedly with a stick, but when he started bleeding the policeman stopped. The others began hitting and slapping him again and the chief told him to repeat 300 times that he was the one who did the crime, while again kneeling on sharp gravel. By this time Thubodha estimates it was around 2am on April 5.

Finally, because he could not bear the torture any longer Thubodha said that he would say and sign whatever the police wanted. Aung Ko came and told him that, “Whatever I ask you just say ‘yes’, after that we’ll give food and water.” Thubodha agreed, and they took him back to the cells and brought him some water but no food. It was around dawn on April 5. At that time he could hear the sound of beating, crying and yelling coming from an adjacent cell. Later in the morning the police came and said they would take him to hospital, but they just took him to a stream and let him bathe then brought him back to the station lockup.

Around midday the police brought him out and he saw the senior officers and subordinates were all there. Thubodha’s brother had also come to the station. When he saw the monk be brought out he went to pay respects by kneeling to him, but the police asked him, “What are you groveling for?” and kicked him in the legs. They brought Thubodha to the township headquarters and there again strung him up until only his tip-toes were on the floor, then the stuck cigarettes into his buttocks and burned the hair around his anus. Then Naing Lin pulled down his pants and asked Thubodha, “Do you want to suck it?” The monk said he didn’t want to, and the policeman came behind him and touched the monk’s anus with his penis. “Did you do that girl like this?” he asked. The monk denied it and the policeman then punched him repeatedly in the chest, telling him not to lie and saying that the police already knew everything. Another policeman came and saying that he had besmeared the name of his village, also punched the monk. Then the township police chief came and told them to take the accused back to the cells. Back in the cells, Kyaw Thet again came and beat Thubodha, and another officer came and forced him to stand on one leg for 15 minutes. Other detainees who were present gave him some bread and water secretly.

Around 8am on April 6, Aung Ko arrived and took him out. He told Thubodha that he would have to go to a judge and repeat everything just as the policeman told him. If he didn’t do it then that night he would die. He then instructed him on how to confess that he and San Win had raped and murdered the girl. After that they took the monk to court and waited outside a room with a judge inside. The judge asked if the police had beaten him. Then Thubodha said he was innocent and that he had been brutally tortured and that he had injuries to show for it. The judge merely called to the police and said, “Take him back.”

The police took him again to the headquarters where Naing Lin again took him to a room and strung him up and began beating him and asking if he could go on like that for two or three months. Aung Ko came and said on a chair in front of him and again said that they would kill him and that nothing would happen to them. Kyaw Thet kicked him in the nape of the neck and then forced him to hold a grenade. Naing Lin took a revolver from Aung Ko and pointed it at Thubodha, telling him if he told the judge next time that the police had beaten him then he would be shot and killed. After that the township chief arrived and again warned his subordinates not to go too far lest they did in fact kill the accused, after which they again took the monk back to the cells.

On April 7, the police took Thubodha to his monastery and collected his three sets of robes and in the evening time the township chief again told him to confess to the crime. The next day they took the monk and San Win both to the village and forced them to pose for reenactment photographs at the scene of the crime. The officers went into the village and left him with Constable Win Htun, who hit him on the neck and head with a fence post repeatedly until blood came from his ear. He also forced his head onto the ground and trod on it, and stabbed him with the sharp end of the post. At this time no villagers were present because they had been ordered to stay away, but firemen on guard duty stood and watched. They did not get involved but they did not stop the violence either. After that the other police came and again took the monk away.

When the police took the montk to court again, Aung Ko warned that this time he was to do as he was told or they would kill him for sure. When they went inside Thubodha met the same judge, who ordered the handcuffs removed and called two people into the room and asked them to check the monk’s body. They said he had no injuries. Thubodha protested that he had many injuries but the judge ignored him. He took copies of documents that the police gave him and then told the monk to sign them, and to take him away. Thubodha also says that he heard the judge say quietly as they left that the police had got the wrong man. As they left the room, Aung Ko gave him the thumbs up and took him back to the Kani Police Station.

While the torture was going on, the administration head in Sin Oe village, U Ya Aung allegedly called a meeting of one person per household and told them that the police had caught the murderers and threatened people to cooperate or he would have them arrested and jailed as well. He also allegedly paid one person to appear as an eyewitness to the supposed abduction of the girl by the accused.

On April 30 the trial of the two accused opened in the district court. Both of the accused testified that they had been tortured for throughout their custody and U Thubodha retracted the confession that he had given. Furthermore, the material evidence was inconclusive. The examining doctor could not find evidence that the girl had been raped prior to her death as the police had claimed. Nonetheless, the district court sentenced the accused based on the confession and on witness testimonies against them that the police had also coerced or cajoled other villagers to give, and presently the two accused are detained in Mandalay jail.

These harrowing accounts speak for themselves, and it would be pointless to expand upon them here. Clearly, if the facts are as the two accused have stated then it will be possible through a thorough investigation to identify witnesses to at least some of the alleged acts of torture and other abuses that occurred over the fortnight following the murder of the young girl, and also to conduct thorough-going medical examinations to see if either of the two has evidence of lasting injuries or scars that correspond with their accounts.

Accordingly, I call for a special investigation to be undertaken into the Kani Township police officers accused of involvement in this torture, the judge who took the confession statement, and the village administrators responsible for covering up the crime and protecting the actual perpetrator. The investigation must be undertaken with a view to bringing criminal charges against the police officers involved, not merely disciplinary action, as is normally the case in instances of this sort. I also urge that the original murder case be reopened and that the two accused be released from prison without undue delay.

At this time that political conditions in Myanmar are changing, it is of utmost importance that institutional changes also be made to hold government officers accountable for crimes of this sort. If police in Myanmar are able to continue to get away with acts of torture, as they had been in past years of military dictatorship, it will spell ill for the efforts to effect change at other levels of society and government. Therefore, cases of this sort serve as important test cases in the current period, for us to assess the credibility and quality of the changes taking place, and it is for this reason too that I consider this case to be one of the utmost significance.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. U Hla Min
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. U Thein Sein
President of Myanmar
President Office
Office No.18
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

3. U Tun Tun Oo<BR>Chief Justice<BR>Office of the Supreme Court<BR>Office No. 24<BR>Naypyitaw<BR>MYANMAR<BR>Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145<BR>Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. Dr. Tun Shin
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. U Kyaw Kyaw Htun
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

6. Thura U Aung Ko
Chairman
Pyithu Hluttaw Judicial and Legislative Committee
Office of the Pyithu Hluttaw
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

7. U Aung Nyein
Chairman
Pyithu Hluttaw Judicial and Legislative Committee
Committee for Public Complaints and Appeals
Office of the Pyithu Hluttaw
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

8. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Chairwoman
Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law and Tranquility Committee
Office of the Pyithu Hluttaw
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR

9. U Win Mra
Chairman
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
27 Pyay Road
Hlaing Township
Yangon
MYANMAR
Tel: +95-1-659 668 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +95-1-659 668 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Fax: +95-1-659 668

10. Ko Ko Hlaing
Chief Political Advisor
Office of the President
Naypyitaw
MYANMAR
Tel-+95-1-532 501 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +95-1-532 501 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting ext-605 / 654 668
Fax-+95-1-532 500, 654 668
Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

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