Myanmar: The Need for Fundamental Reform of the Legal System

The ICJ made an oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council, on the need for fundamental reform of the legal system in Myanmar.

The oral statement was delivered during an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.

While noting some progress on legal reform to establish the rule of law during Myanmar’s economic and political transition, the ICJ noted that reforms are fragile and legal obstacles continue to block improvements to the extremely poor state of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The ICJ considers that Myanmar’s judiciary is not yet independent. State authorities continue to exert improper influence on politically sensitive cases.

The ICJ was therefore deeply disappointed to hear the Representative of Myanmar state during the Council session that the Government rejected as “intrusive and prescriptive, infringing upon the national sovereignty” the Special Rapporteur’s basic recommendation that “the Government … Initiate fundamental reforms to establish a judiciary that is impartial and independent, including from the direct control of the Government and the military”.

Systemic problems affect the independence of lawyers, including the poor state of legal education and undue restrictions on licensing. Lawyers in Myanmar lack an independent Bar Council.

The ICJ stressed the need for Myanmar to ratify and implement all core human rights treaties, to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, and to agree to the establishment of an OHCHR office in the country. At the same time, ICJ emphasised the continued need for a robust mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

The full statement may be downloaded in PDF: Advocacy-UN-HRC25-Myanmar-OralStatement-032014

The report of the Special Rapporteur is available here in Word format: SR Myanmar Report March 2014

For further information, please see the recent ICJ report Right to Counsel: The Independence of Lawyers in Myanmar (click to download PDF).

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