Cowardly Courts?

As I’ve written before, Burma’s judiciary seems not to have reformed at the same pace as the rest of the political system. Several recent articles have highlighted this. The Irrawaddy reports that the Supreme Court dismissed a Kachin woman’s case against a local military battalion without even informing her lawyer! The Guardian notes that judges haven’t been merely passive victims, but rather participants in the network of corruption:

The problem in Burma today is not that judges are struggling to be independent against a heavy-handed regime, but rather that judges are part and parcel of decades of a military governing system. Judges routinely impose unjustified sentences in political cases, allowing them to keep their jobs and access to the benefits of a corrupt system.

As I’ve said before, this reminds me a bit of Indonesia right after Reformasi. There, granting courts judicial independence effectively insulated the system of corruption that existed within the bench and prevented outside actors, such as the Judicial Commission, from forcing reforms. As such I strongly believe Burma should take steps to improve the quality of the judicial system before moving towards robust independence.

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