ASIA: Technical assistance programme must first assess what justice is there to be accessed before planning an accesses to justice project

An Oral Statement to the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) on General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Mr. President.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) appreciates the UN and its manifold agencies operating on the ground, for the technical assistance provided to improve human rights standards in the countries. However, the ALRC wishes to request the UN and agencies like the UNDP, to specifically focus on the working of justice institutions in the countries where such technical assistance is provided.

For instance, a huge extend of resources have been spent in countries for programmes like access to justice. The ALRC has closely monitored such programmes implemented in Asia. The ALRC is of the opinion, that while activities like training of judges, lawyers, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are important; programmes should not limit itself to this work.

The technical assistance programme must now focus on adequately assessing the capacity of the different entities that receive training and the environment within which these entities function, to understand whether the new knowledge acquired through the training could be implemented in actual practice? In other words, programmes like access to justice should first assess what justice is there to be accessed in the countries before the activities under the programme are planned.

At the moment in Myanmar, UN agencies are engaged in an extensive programme of training judges, lawyers, police officers and prosecutors on principles of human rights and on the legal mandates to combat corruption. Such training is meaningless and a sheer waste of time and resources, if the technical assistance programme fails to understand and address the fact that judges, prosecutors and police officers do not have adequate infrastructure in Myanmar to implement this training into actual practice.

For instance, not one professionally qualified and equipped entity exists in Myanmar that can undertake modern and scientific crime investigation. Without such a facility available adequately in the country, there is no meaning in training a police officer on human rights and the absolute prohibition against torture, since the officers continue to depend on confession statements to investigate crimes. When judges or prosecutors are paid not more than US$ 150 per month while living expenses are four times higher, a judge will find hard to stay away from corruption in Myanmar.

In other words, the technical assistance programme should spend more resources and time to work closely with the governments where such programmes are implemented focusing on the improvement of conditions at work, for professional like judges, lawyers, prosecutors and police officers.

The ALRC is of the opinion that the technical assistance programme should redefine itself, and take time to assess the actual situation on the ground before programmes are implemented failing which the programme will be ill-fated to repeat the mistakes that it has made in countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and Bangladesh where nothing has improved on the justice front despite the money and resources so far spent.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Webcast video: Link (Please scroll down and click number 15 on Asian Legal Resource Centre)

About Admin

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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