[JURIST] President of the Global Justice Center [advocacy website] Janet Benshoof said [press release] Thursday that judges who participated in the trials and convictions of 60 political activists [JURIST report] in Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] last week are co-conspirators of crimes against humanity and should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. In a statement, Benshoof explained that the circumstances of the hearings – in which many defendants did not have legal representation, those who did were not allowed to meet with their lawyers in private, and in which defendants could not question the prosecution witnesses – justified a referral to the ICC. She pointed out direct provisions of the ICC that she felt the judges violated:
these prison sentences are crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, including violations of Article 7(1)(e) 'Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law' and 7(1)(h) 'Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender…or other grounds.'
She noted that judges in Hitler's and Saddam Hussein's regimes were found to have committed crimes against humanity for trying and then executing civilians.
Last week, dozens of activists from 88 Generation Students [BBC backgrounder], including Min Ko Naing [advocacy website], Ko Ko Gyu, and Ktay Kywe, were sentenced to 65 years in prison for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations last year. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] voiced concern about the lengthy and severe prison terms, calling for the military junta to release [JURIST report] democracy activists and other political prisoners. Despite the September release [JURIST report] of more than 9,000 political prisoners, human rights groups estimate that more than 2,100 Burmese remain imprisoned for their religious and political beliefs.