Myanmar must follow through on promising efforts to improve the independence and accountability of its legal system

Myanmar must follow through on promising efforts to improve the independence and accountability of its legal system, and particularly its judiciary, said the ICJ today at the launch of one of its landmark book in Yangon.

The ICJ launched today the Myanmar language version of its Practitioners’ Guide to the Independence and Accountability of Judges, Lawyers and Prosecutors.

“The judiciary in Myanmar has taken important steps towards asserting its independence from the other branches of government, but we heard repeatedly from the judiciary that they still face significant obstacles in this regard,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ’s Secretary-General.

The book launch wrapped a series of discussions regarding judicial ethics and the rule of law with the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar, as well as with the parliamentary Committee on Rule of Law and Tranquility.

The ICJ’s Practitioners’ Guide n°1 is the first of its kind to be published in the Myanmar language providing detailed references to international and comparative standards on the independence and accountability of judges and lawyers.

“The Supreme Court emphasized its belief that an independent judiciary plays a key role in ensuring access to justice and the protection of human rights, but with independence must come accountability,” Tayler added. “The Myanmar judiciary must be accountable not just in deciding cases according to the law and facts, but also as a separate and equal branch of the government, and ultimately, to the people of Myanmar.”

In the course of its discussions at an earlier workshop in Naypyidaw, the ICJ was repeatedly told that the judiciary is trying to address challenges to its institutional independence, as well as the independence of individual judges.

Corruption, which remains a serious problem throughout all social sectors, including the judiciary, interferes with the judiciary’s ability to provide a remedy for human rights violations and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Undue influence by powerful political and economic actors continues to hamper the push for greater trust and credibility for the judiciary among the general public.

“As we heard at the workshop, at all levels of the system, from the Supreme Court to the Townships, a lack of resources, poor working conditions and low remunerations contribute to an environment where the temptations of corruption, or outside pressure, undermine judicial independence and impartiality,” said Tayler.

“We also heard strong support from all levels of the judiciary for establishing a judicial code of conduct that incorporates international standards and best practices in response to the demands of the people of Myanmar for more rule of law. Producing such a code, and implementing it, would go a long way toward increasing the judiciary’s independence and accountability,” he added.

Wilder Tayler was joined by a senior panel of international legal experts on judicial integrity, including three ICJ Commissioners: Justice Azhar Cachalia of the Supreme Court of Appeals of South Africa, Justice Radmila Dicic of  the Supreme Court of Serbia, and retired Justice Ketil Lund of the Supreme Court of Norway.

NewsPress releases