An International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) delegation returned this week from a fact-finding scoping mission to Myanmar/Burma, facilitated by the British Embassy in Yangon. The high-level delegation was mandated to examine the state of the rule of law, particularly with respect to the access to justice before the courts, and to assess the genuineness of the Myanmar/Burmese authorities’ commitment to engage in serious law reform and respect for human rights.
During the seven-day mission the IBAHRI delegation, comprising Judge Philippe Kirsch, OC QC; Professor Nicholas Cowdery AM QC, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, and Sadakat Kadri (rapporteur), UK Barrister, held 21 meetingswith more than a hundred people, including lawyers, judicial officials, parliamentarians of the majority and the opposition, the newly established national human rights commission, and a wide range of civil society stakeholders.
A report detailing the findings and conclusions of the mission will be published before the end of the year. It will include related recommendations andserve as a basis for IBAHRI's further engagement with Myanmar/Burma.
The IBAHRI mission took place from 13 – 19 August 2012 and was organised and managed by Shirley Pouget, IBAHRI Programme Lawyer.
Meetings were held inYangon, Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay and Bago.
Myanmar/Burma and human rights
Over the last two decades, numerous concerns have been raised over alleged abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as well as violations of civil and political rights, such as due process rights and freedom of expression, conscience and association. Other allegations bear on lack of independence within the judiciary, obstacles faced by lawyers in performing their professional duties, and lack of opportunity for ordinary citizens to vindicate their legal rights in court.
In recent months, the newly elected civilian government, headed by President Thein Sein has taken political and economic steps forward, widely interpreted as a democratisation process. Advances include, inter alia, the release of many high profile prisoners and engaged in an unprecedented examination of legislation and law reforms.