When an authoritarian regime claims that it needs to educate its people about human rights, the reaction of most outsiders is to laugh or scoff. After all, human rights are universal. However, a Democratic Voice of Burma interview with Dr. Than Nwe, a member of Burma’s new Human Rights Commission, actually raises an important point. According to Dr. Than Nwe, the commission has begun receiving petitions. However, most of the petitions ask for help resolving issues clearly outside the commission’s jurisdiction, such as family issues. Of course, this is just one anecdote from an admittedly partial source, but it is certainly worth thinking carefully about how and when to conduct human rights education. Hopefully, now that the U.S. is engaging with the new regime, U.S. NGOs might – one day – be able to provide this education.
Category Archives: Human Rights Commission
According to DVB, Burma’s new Human Rights Commission is now accepting complaints. It’s perhaps somewhat surprising that the commission will hear and decide actual cases, however it is in line with President Thein Sein’s mini-glasnost. Cases already filed in the regular courts will not be transferred, but from this point on the commission should be the primary point institution for human rights cases. Some critics worry that the commission will essentially act as a Trojan horse, turning on complainants once they reveal themselves to the commission. Indeed, Burma’s courts have often “blamed the victim” by allowing government officials to countersue complainants for defamation (the Su Su Nwe case was a particularly blatant example of this). However, the commission could also represent the new government’s attempt to bypass the corrupted judiciary completely.
In other interesting news, the Pyithu Hluttaw passed a law that would allow peaceful protests. Interestingly, according to Myanmar Times, the Hluttaw Bill Committee struck down one amendment for not conforming to the 2008 Constitution. This might be a sign that this committee will begin exercising legislative constitutional review even before cases reach the Constitutional Tribunal.
Since his disappearance in 2007, Jonas Burgos has been the poster child for the problem of enforced disappearances in the Philippines. While the Philippine Supreme Court under Chief Justice Reynato Puno had expressed its support for resolving these cases, and even promulgated new writs to help, thus far it hasn’t been able to bring the perpetrators to justice, much less find Burgos. Now, the Supreme Court has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to produce Burgos… or else. Given the power of the AFP, it’s not clear whether the Supreme Court can enforce its order. Indeed, the Court also suggested that the AFP should be should be held in contempt for not complying with earlier orders to produce documents related to other disappearances. Still, the decision is perhaps a good sign that the Supreme Court under the new chief justice, Renato Corona, hasn’t abandoned his predecessor’s mission. Read more at PhilStar.
Every once in a while, legal institutions in Southeast Asia find themselves in bizarre situations. Last month, I blogged about an Indonesian case involving a certain “pornographic” dance. In The Lighter Side, I’ll highlight more of these odd cases – because with all the bad news about the rule of law in the region, we all need a few laughs.
First off: beauty rights abuses. According to Phil Star, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights ruled that a Filipina beauty queen was “dethroned” without due process. I kid you not…