BURMA/MYANMAR: International community must assist in the re-engineering of justice institutions

An Oral Statement to the 31st Session of the UN Human Rights Council from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) on Myanmar’s UPR Outcomes. Due to time constraints in Council proceedings, the following Oral Statement could not be presented at the Council. The Statement is now being shared to inform the wider audience in Myanmar and across the world about the ALRC’s campaign on institutional transformation in Myanmar.

Mr. President.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) notes that the adoption of UPR Outcomes on Myanmar coincides with the long-cherished struggles for democracy in Myanmar coming to fruition. The flowering of democracy in Myanmar is proof that people’s desire for democracy will succeed military repression; it is a lesson for Myanmar’s neighbours.

The ALRC and its partners are indebted to the global human rights community, for their care and attention to the people of Myanmar. Now that it is possible to openly work on equality before law, dignity, and freedom in Myanmar, we encourage them to spend time and resources to gain nuanced knowledge on the challenges faced by Myanmar’s people and institutions, rather than push pre-packaged development programmes, which have failed in countries like Cambodia.

For instance, there are nationwide programmes, sponsored by the UN and other international agencies, to train judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and civil servants, including the police, on the rule of law, human rights, and corruption prevention. Resources are being spent, with the expectation that training alone will reform justice machinery.

But, justice institutions in Myanmar do not have institutional memory of independence and transparency. Neither do conditions exist nor are changes offered that could promote such a culture. The Myanmar police have no experience in scientifically investigating crimes; assisting the Military to subdue people was a singular responsibility. The same goes for the Judiciary and prosecution. Since 1962, at least two generations have grown up with fear and distrust of authoritarian rule rather than the rule of law. For such people – to imbibe and practice the rule of law – mere trainings are not enough.

The international community must work closely with the people of Myanmar, to encourage radical re-designing and re-engineering of the justice process. The justice machinery of Myanmar needs adequate infrastructure to improve democratic space. It is a long-term commitment; it cannot be achieved through pre-packaged programmes. Only if this commitment to re-engineering the justice process is embraced can the UPR Outcomes, as reflected in the recommendations, be achieved.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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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