Myanmar: Two years after the coup, country further than ever from democracy and the rule of law

The military coup d’état that overthrew Myanmar’s civilian government on 1 February 2021 has resulted in an ongoing humanitarian crisis and in systematic and widespread human rights violations, many of which likely amount to crimes against humanity, the International Commission of Jurists (“ICJ”) said today.

The self-appointed State Administrative Council (SAC) has declared that it intends to hold national elections in the next six months, and that it will end the state of emergency through which the military junta has arrogated to itself all legislative, executive and judicial powers.

Moreover, on 1 February State-run media confirmed that the military junta intends to extend the state of emergency for a further six months, a move that will only further deepen the human rights crisis. The ICJ calls on the international community, including the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to cease any support and recognition for the military regime’s planned election.

A violent crackdown on peaceful protestors, political activists, ethnic and religious minorities, and human rights defenders, the deaths of roughly 2,800 people, most of which attributable to unlawful killings, the arbitrary arrest and detention of more than 17,500, and the forcible displacement of 1.5 million within the country, took place during the coup and in its aftermath. These statistics are a grim reminder, if any were needed, of how far the rule of law has deteriorated since the start of the coup.

“The military government that has amassed all of the executive, legislative and judicial power, while imposing a state of emergency and arbitrarily detaining peaceful protestors and political opponents cannot hold free and fair elections,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Secretary General.

“The coup has been a devastating blow to the well-being of people in Myanmar, destroying lives and livelihoods, and reversing the auspicious albeit tentative progress toward democracy and the rule of law,” said the ICJ’s Secretary General.

All evidence on the ground indicates that such elections will be impossible under the current circumstances, with nearly daily reports documenting a further deterioration of the human rights situation, and the regular adoption of legal amendments that flout basic rule of law principles.

On 27 January, the SAC announced strict criteria for political parties to participate in elections with an amendment to the Political Parties Registration Law. The Amendment requires that all political parties have at least 100,00 members, maintain a presence in at least half of the country’s townships, registration with the Union Election Commission (which is controlled by the junta), and hold k100 million ($47,564 USD). These requirements are nearly impossible to fulfill within the time allotted and are designed to exclude certain political parties from taking part in the election.

A continuation of the state of emergency and rule by the military is nothing more than the extension of an unlawful and arbitrary exercise of authority and will do nothing to address the deteriorating security situation, the catastrophic humanitarian and human rights crisis, and the unwillingness of the military to respect international human rights law and standards or rule of law norms.

The ICJ continues to condemn the actions of the military regime, and calls on the international community to:

  hold the military regime and its members accountable;

  refuse to extend any support to the sham election and thus legitimize the military regime;

  support the people of Myanmar in their quest for a democratic society rooted in human rights and the rule of law.

The ICJ also calls on the military to honour the results of the 2020 elections, return the country to a civilian government, cease the targeting of the political opposition, and immediately release all people arbitrary detained, including for political reasons.


Raquel Saavedra, International Legal Advisor (Myanmar),

Mandira Sharma, Senior International Legal Advisor (Myanmar),

NewsPress releases