UK must help Burmese migrant workers whose death sentence it helped secure

August 30, 2019

A court in Thailand has upheld two death sentences which the UK’s National Crime Agency has admitted it helped secure. The two defendants, Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, are now at risk of imminent execution.

Reprieve is calling on the UK Government to seek a stay of execution for the two Burmese men, who were young migrant workers convicted of murdering two British backpackers following a deeply flawed investigation and trial.

In 2017 the NCA formally acknowledged that it acted unlawfully in providing assistance to help secure the death sentences. This followed a legal action brought by Reprieve on behalf of Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo.

The NCA’s admission added to serious doubts over whether the convictions are safe, and highlights the possibility that the real killers could still be at large while innocent men await execution.

The UK’s role in these death sentences raises fresh concerns about UK police compliance with the Government’s policy for preventing British involvement in human rights abuses overseas, the “Overseas Security and Justice Assistance Guidance”, or OSJA.

Since its introduction the Government has shrouded the OSJA policy in secrecy, leading the Home Affairs Committee to question in 2016 whether the policy is “fit for purpose”. The HAC also said it was “totally unacceptable” for Ministers to conceal even basic information about UK police assistance overseas.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “The British Government has a responsibility to ensure that these men are spared execution given the role it played in securing their death sentences. The Prime Minister should make urgent representations to the Thai Government seeking a reversal of these death sentences, and must also overhaul the broken risk assessment process which allowed a UK agency to render itself complicit in the death sentences – and now likely executions – of men who may well be innocent.”