BURMA: ALRC endorses call on rule of law
(Hong Kong, April 29, 2011) The Asian Legal Resource Centre has strongly endorsed the contents of a letter by the National League for Democracy to Burma's president calling for action on the rule of law.
In a statement released on Monday, the NLD said that its deputy chairperson, U Tin Oo, had sent a letter to the new president, U Thein Sein, on April 5 in which he said that since the sitting of a new parliament in January up to now there had been no improvement in the situation of the judiciary in Burma.
Tin Oo noted that despite the political change in Burma, cases were still being heard behind closed doors in prison, contrary to the judicial principle that the state itself had laid down for open trial.
He also cited recent statements by the new president--the former prime minister of the military regime that handed power to a new military-dominated legislature this year--that the rule of law was essential for development.
Basil Fernando, director of policy and programmes at the ALRC and spokesperson on Burma, said that the Hong Kong-based regional rights group had for years been stressing that Burma's human rights problems were fundamentally about the rule of law.
"There are many enormous structural and institutional obstacles to the rule of law in Burma," Fernando said.
"If judges are not even able to do the most basic things according to the current existing laws, like holding trial in an open court, allowing parties to be heard and deciding on the facts then what hope is there for any more significant reform?" he asked.
"Those persons speculating about the form of the constitutional tribunal, new Supreme Court composition or this or that should start with the basic elements, basic problems in the system found in courts around the country every day," Fernando said.
"If the routine procedural problems can begin to be addressed through some change in practices and reduced interference from the executive in the workings of the judiciary, only then can we say that something more might be possible in the system as a whole," he added.
"If the members of Burma's new parliament believe that they have political legitimacy, then all of them, from all parties, should take up this lead and put the rule of law at the very front of their agendas for legislative and administrative reform, not just in rhetoric but in substance," Fernando concluded.
In June last year, the ALRC submitted a special report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in which it underscored that a major obstacles to implementation of human rights in Burma was "the State’s perception that the rule of law is a function of the executive and therefore that the role of the judiciary is to enforce policy rather than law".
The group published the report in the June 2010 edition of its quarterly periodical, article 2: www.article2.org.