Tag Archives: Human Rights Council

“Only for questioning” and the disavowal of law

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At a meeting in Singapore last week, Burma’s deputy defense minister iterated that persons taken into custody over the protests in his country of recent months had not been arrested but held “only for questioning.”

Perhaps because it was intended to deflect censure, this audacious remark didn’t get much notice. That’s unfortunate, because it implies a great deal both about how the junta thinks and how it operates.

Where does “only for questioning” fall under the law? If people are arrested, then criminal procedure applies. Police must lay charges and bring the accused before courts. But if someone has not been arrested, nor held according to established practice, then what is there?

If the military regime had even pretended to play by its own rules, then lawyers and relatives could have sought access to detainees according to those. If it had declared an emergency or otherwise sought to bypass ordinary law through formal announcement, then this could have been critiqued and campaigned against.

But dragging people from streets and houses with the help of assorted thugs and unidentified officers denies all recourse. “Only for questioning” is a blank wall, a legal void, a disavowal of everything.

Among those taken “only for questioning” was comedian Par Par Lay. Unlike some, he was released at the end of October, although being famous didn’t spare him from torture, as he told the Burmese service of the Voice of America: Continue reading