International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney pressed Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to pardon two imprisoned journalists in the country. The appeal was made during a press freedom event at the United Nations on Friday, Reuters reported.
Amal is part of the legal team representing two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for working on an investigative report related to the extrajudicial killing of Rohingya Muslims in the country. The conviction was carried out under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act on September 3.
The two journalists were arrested in December of 2017 for probing into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men by local Buddhists and security forces in Myanmar’s Rakhine state during an army operation, per Reuters.
Following the army crackdown in the Buddhist-majority country, which started in August of 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh. According to the U.N., Myanmar’s security forces are committing the gravest crimes under international law.
During the panel, Clooney said that the conviction was carried out “without proof of a crime,” and called it a “travesty of justice.” She stressed that anyone who observed this trial agrees that the conviction was a farce. She also reminded Suu Kyi how the leader herself stressed the need to have a free press, in the past, if Myanmar is to transition into a full democracy, per Reuters.
'There was a conviction without proof of a crime,' Amal Clooney, legal counsel to imprisoned Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo pic.twitter.com/qA6zxD61u3— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 28, 2018
“She knows that mass murder is not a state secret and that exposing it doesn’t turn a journalist into a spy,” Clooney said. “She has said that one political prisoner is one too many, and so we’re hopeful that since these are the principles that she herself has espoused, she will step in and try to correct an injustice in this case.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for democracy, has been internationally criticized for failing to stop or even condemn the violence against Rohingya Muslims.
Speaking at a conference of the World Economic Forum in Hanoi earlier this month, Suu Kyi denied that the journalists were jailed for doing their job, and said that they were imprisoned because “the court has decided that they have broken the Official Secrets Act,” Reuters reported.
“Aung San Suu Kyi knows better than anyone what it is like to be a political prisoner in Myanmar. She has slept in a cell at the prison where Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo now sleep,” Clooney said. “But today, she holds the key. History will judge her on her response.”
'History will judge her on her response,' Amal Clooney on Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi and jailed Reuters reporters pic.twitter.com/Mh3rp4PGKk— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 28, 2018
The Friday event was organized by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which also highlighted the atrocities committed against journalists in other countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, and Kyrgyzstan, per Reuters.