Human Rights Defender Bawk Jar Arrested

On 18 July 2013, police arrested Bawk Jar Lum Nyoi, a renowned Burmese human rights defender. The police had no court order and did not explain the reason for the arrest, according to reports. It is not clear if she is charged. The trial starts on 31 July.

What is clear, however, is that her arrest appears to be linked to her peaceful activism and sows fear among the country’s human rights defenders. Local rights groups have deemed the arrest illegal and demand her immediate and unconditional release.

Bawk Jar was one of ten Burmese human rights defenders, mostly lawyers, who took part in a two-week study trip with Civil Rights Defenders in Serbia earlier this month. The group met with Serbian peers, who shared their experience of legal aid and legal advocacy as means to strengthen the respect for human rights.

Bawk Jar is a human rights activist in Kachin State who has been advocating for environmental protection, women’s and farmers’ rights particularly in Kachin state, but also nationwide. At great personal risk, she has been at the forefront of campaigning, including through the courts, to halt large-scale logging and plantations that cause alarming environmental degradation and forced evictions of farmers from their lands. Bawk Jar is known for her activism of women’s right too. She was among three leading civil society representatives to be invited and received by former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2012.

Similar arrests and intimidations against activists and human rights defenders in Burma are becoming an all too common occurrence, even after the declaration of political reform. It is indicative that Burma has a long way ahead to start a genuine democratic transition and international pressure for better protection of those who fight for human rights remains key.