Myanmar’s government must end the practice of appointing newly retired military officials as judicial officers to its courts and ensure that the judiciary carries out its functions as a separate branch and independent of the Executive, said the ICJ today.
At least 20 former military officers who have just recently resigned from the military were reportedly appointed as vice director generals to the country’s Supreme Court this month.
They will be performing administrative functions but according to section 310 of the Myanmar Constitution will be in line for senior judicial appointments at the state or regional level after 5 years or sooner if the President considers them to be ‘eminent jurists’.
“One of the fundamental aspects of an independent, impartial and accountable judiciary is the appointment of judges, through proper procedures, on the basis of their legal competencies,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “The process for appointing and promoting judges must be transparent and ensure judicial independence and impartiality.”
A group of leading members of the Myanmar bar launched a “yellow ribbon” campaign last Friday in Yangon to protest the practice of assigning military officers to serve as judicial officers.
“The process of selecting these officers and assessing their legal qualifications is totally opaque,” Zarifi added. “The lawyers wearing yellow ribbons are emphasizing the belief of people in Myanmar that strengthening the rule of law is essential to guaranteeing justice and the country’s political and economic development, so it’s important to improve the judiciary’s qualifications and increase public trust.”
The Supreme Court of Myanmar launched its Strategic Plan 2015-2016, citing “judicial independence and accountability” as one of its key strategy areas.
The UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provide that that “Persons selected for judicial office shall be individuals of integrity and ability with appropriate training or qualifications in law.”
“The Myanmar judiciary is trying to shake off decades of interference from the Executive branch in order to assert its proper role as defender of the rights of people in Myanmar, and it can’t do so without a clear and transparent appointment and promotion process,” Zarifi said.
An exposition and analysis of international law and standards are available in English and Myanmar language in the ICJ’s authoritative Practitioners’ Guide on the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, t: +66 807819002; e: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Vani Sathisan, ICJ International Legal Adviser for Myanmar, t: +95 9250800301; e: vani.sathisan(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases