Myanmar: newly appointed Attorney General should commit to reform, rule of law and human rights
Newly appointed Myanmar Attorney General U Tun Tun Oo must commit to strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights in the country, said the ICJ today.
U Tun Tun Oo (photo) has been one of the Deputy Attorney-Generals in the Union Attorney General’s Office since 2006.
“U Tun Tun Oo is taking over a post that is Myanmar’s most powerful legal officer. He plays a complex role, at once a member of the Executive, adviser to the President and the Hluttaw, the authority drafting and amending laws,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “As an immediate matter, he should review all political cases and stop the harassment of human rights defenders.”
The Attorney General represents the government in judicial proceedings and advises the cabinet on the legality of its actions.
He also leads Prosecutors in the country, and thus has the authority to select, initiate and undertake investigations into criminal and politically sensitive cases.
The Attorney General is also the president of the country’s only officially recognized Bar Association.
The Attorney General is, in effect, the minister of justice, and as such has controlled much of the work of the judiciary, too.
The Union Attorney General’s Office has historically followed the interests of the military and impeded an independent judiciary, the ICJ notes.
It has been criticized for failing to tackle major problems such as corruption and human rights abuses while continuing to prosecute human rights defenders and political opponents.
“Within the Union Attorney General’s Office, prosecutors must act with integrity in an independent, impartial and objective manner and in the protection of the public interest”, said Zarifi.
“Prosecutors must exercise sound discretion in the performance of their functions. They must seek justice, without fear of favour, not merely convict.”
“The Attorney-General’s Office must not shy away from prosecutions that will combat impunity,” he added.
The Union Attorney General’s Office launched its Strategic Plan for 2015-2019, establishing important benchmarks for measuring the institution’s development.
The Strategic Plan acknowledges the public’s low confidence in the office and commits the office to the rule of law, human rights, fair trials, prosecutorial ethics and accountability, in accordance with international standards.
“The Union Attorney General’s Office must investigate and prosecute criminal offences, including gross human rights violations and abuses, with impartiality. The Union Attorney General’s Office must be free from unwarranted interference from the legislative and the executive branches of government. Likewise, it must not interfere with judges or lawyers in an independent judiciary,” Zarifi said.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, t: +66807819002; e: email@example.com
Vani Sathisan, ICJ International Legal Adviser for Myanmar, t: +95(0)9250800301; e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Under international standards, prosecutors are required to “respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights” and “give due attention to the prosecution of crimes committed by public officials, particularly corruption, abuse of power, grave violations of human rights and other crimes recognized by international law.” These principles are set out in the United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors.
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.