Amal Clooney calls for immediate pardons for two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar
'You have the power to actually remedy this injustice today if you wanted to'
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has called for immediate pardons for two journalists jailed after reporting the alleged massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims.
Clooney, wife of Hollywood actor George, called on Myanmar head of government and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to grant the men pardons during a press freedom event at the United Nations on Friday.
She said the reporters’ wives wrote “a really heartfelt letter” to the government pleading for a pardon, not because their husbands had done anything wrong, but because it would allow them to be released from prison.
“The president can grant a pardon any time after a conviction,” she told those gathered. ”The journalists’ families have already submitted a pardon request.
“This case began with authorisation from the government at the highest level, all the way up to the president’s office. And the government can, if it wants to, end it today.”
In a message directed at Suu Kyi, Ms Clooney told Reuters: “You fought for so many years to be freed from the same prison where they now sit and now you have the power to actually remedy this injustice today if you wanted to.
The two reporters, who pleaded not guilty and have been detained since December last year, were sentenced to seven years in prison on 3 September.
Kyaw Soe Oo has a three-year-old daughter. Last month, Wa Lone’s wife gave birth to their first child, a girl, whom Ms Clooney said Wa Lone has not yet met.
The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys by security forces and local Buddhists in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state during an army crackdown that began in August last year.
The operation sent nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh to escape a bloody military crackdown in the Buddhist-majority nation.
Myanmar’s army has been accused of murder, rape and setting fire to thousands of homes following an attack by Rohingya militants on security outposts in August 2017.
Ms Suu Kyi said at a forum in Vietnam this month that the case had nothing to do with freedom of expression.
She said the reporters had been sentenced for handling official secrets and “were not jailed because they were journalists”.
However Ms Clooney appealed to Ms Suu Kyi’s own experience of imprisonment during the UN event, hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“Aung San Suu Kyi knows better than anyone what it is like to be a political prisoner in Myanmar,” she said.
“She has slept in a cell at the prison in which Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo now sleep.”
She added that Ms Suu Kyi held ”the key to their liberty“ and ”the key to a more democratic and prosperous Myanmar”.
The CPJ said a record 262 journalists were jailed worldwide in 2017, with Turkey, China, and Egypt alone responsible for imprisoning 134 reporters.
Ms Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, which was then under military rule.
But Canadian MPs voted unanimously on Friday to revoke her honorary citizenship, granted in 2007, because of her failure to stop the persecution of the Rohingya minority in her country.
Amal Clooney, born Amal Alamuddin, is one of the most powerful and respected international human rights lawyers in the world.
She was born in Lebanon but her family fled to Europe during the war of 1982, meaning she identifies with many of the refugees she meets.
She got an English law degree from St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and a master of laws (LLM) from New York University, and is fluent in Arabic and French.
She has represented clients such as former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to the country of Armenia in its fight for recognition of the Armenian genocide.
Her work has also included advocating for Yazidi women, a religious minority in the Middle East which has been subjected to genocide at the hands of Isis.
She met Hollywood actor George Clooney at a charity fundraising event in Italy in 2013. The couple married in Venice in September 2014.