Change or more of the same?

The Asian Legal Resource Centre has submitted a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council criticizing the lack of progress under Myanmar’s new parliamentary government. One paragraph deals specifically with the criminal justice system:

Criminal justice: Structural changes to the judiciary under the 2008 Constitution have not been accompanied by any changes, or any evidence of intended changes, in the judicial system’s actual operations. On the contrary, it continues to be as closed and obscured from public view as before, perhaps even more so. For instance, at time of writing still no biographies or details have been made known publicly of the new Supreme Court justices, among whom three are believed to have come from the armed forces, two others from the civil administration. Legal professionals have doubts about the background and abilities of these persons, yet they too have no detailed knowledge about them, let alone the opportunity to discuss such matters. Meanwhile, legal professionals also say that the amount of corruption in the system is growing exponentially, as the costs of living rise and more and more judges and lawyers look to whatever opportunities they can to make as much money as they can. In some courts, lawyers estimate that up to 70 per cent of cases are decided in part or whole through the payment of money. This situation will continue to worsen. Simultaneously, no evidence exists to suggest plans for any meaningful reform to the highly abusive and corrupt police force. [emphasis mine].

First thing to note is that I’m not the only person having trouble finding out more about the current Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal justices. More substantively, ALRC primarily criticizes corruption within the system. While Myanmar’s government has certainly not done nearly enough to tackle corruption, regular readers of this blog will hopefully have come to learn that no Southeast Asian country has a monopoly on judicial corruption. However, if President Thein Sein was serious in his inaugural speech that his administration would combat corruption, one can only hope that somebody on his team looks at best practices from other countries or at least consider establishing a judicial commission to vet judicial nominees and investigate allegations of corruption.

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