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Civil Society’s Concerns on Draft MNHRC Law Must Be Adequately Addressed

By Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions  •  August 9, 2013

Thura U Shwe Mann
Chairman, Pyithu Hluttaw
Office of the Pyithu Hluttaw
Naypyitaw
Myanmar

Dear U Shwe Mann,

Subject: Civil Society’s Concerns on Draft MNHRC Law Must Be Adequately Addressed

The Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), a network of 30-member organizations from 17 countries across Asia writes to you concerning the latest developments on the founding legislation of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC). This follows an open letter previously sent by ANNI on 8 May 2013 to request broader and meaningful consultation with civil society and to make the draft legislation publicly available for scrutiny and feedback. In this regard, we commend the openness displayed by the government to publish and solicit comments from the public on the draft bill in The Mirror on 7 July 2013. At the same time, we also welcome the news that the MNHRC will be formalized in legislation by an act of Parliament.

We applaud the many positive features in the draft bill. However, ANNI is concerned that the bill, already scheduled for reading and debate in the current Parliamentary sitting, contains many problematic provisions that will undermine the independent and effective functioning of the MNHRC. In this regard, we call your attention to the letter of concern put forth by 43 civil society organizations from Burma on 2 August 2013 expressing their reservations and recommendations made to the draft bill (See Annex).

In particular, ANNI expresses concern over the selection process, which is crucial in ensuring the independence of the Commission. The Selection Board, tasked to submit the names of prospective Commission members for direct appointment by the President, is largely composed of individuals representing or affiliated to the Executive branch of the government with only token representation from the legislature and civil society, with the latter limited to only those from registered NGOs. Such composition of the Selection Board lacks both pluralism and inclusiveness, as set out in international standards concerning national human rights institutions (NHRIs). Furthermore, the decision on the selection of Commission members should not be determined by the exclusive purview of the President, and the Parliament should be part of the formal decision making process of selection of Commission members, to ensure legitimacy and transparency in the selection process.

We stress that the process of establishing the re-constituted MNHRC is vital in determining the extent of the Commission’s compliance with international standards, and thus the credibility and international recognition of the Commission. The potential of the MNHRC to implement its mandate to the fullest must also be underpinned by meaningful civil society engagement. Hence, the selection process of Commission members should also be characterized by a wide and inclusive consultation process, which should include a mechanism for public nomination of candidates, especially from civil society representatives such as human rights defenders and vulnerable or un/under-represented segments of society.

Finally, it is also paramount to ensure the formalization of the selection process in relevant legislation, regulations or binding administrative guidelines to ensure a clear, transparent and participatory selection process that promotes merit-based selection, ensures pluralism and promotes the independence of and public confidence in the MNHRC.

ANNI thus calls on Parliamentarians to play a more proactive role in deliberating and duly addressing the problematic provisions in the draft enabling law before it is put to a vote. We believe that the recommendations made should be thoroughly considered and remain committed to the enhancement of the MNHRC.  If you require more information, please kindly contact Sayeed Ahmad at +66 84217 6150 or email:sayeed@forum.asia.org; or Joses Kuan at tel: +66 83544 5166 or email: joses@forum-asia.org.

Sincerely,

Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), comprising:

  1. ADVAR – Iran;
  2. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) – Bangladesh;
  3. All India Network of NGOs and Individuals Working With National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI) – India;
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA);
  5. Cambodian League for Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO) – Cambodia;
  6. Cambodian Working Group for the Establishment of an NHRI (CWG) – Cambodia
  7. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD) – Mongolia;
  8. Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – Indonesia;
  9.  Defenders of Human Rights Centre – Iran;
  10. Education and Research Association for Consumer Education (ERA Consumer) – Malaysia;
  11. Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor (HKHRM) – Hong Kong;
  12.  Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan;
  13. Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL) – Indonesia;
  14.  Indonesian NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG) – Indonesia;
  15.  Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) – Nepal;
  16. Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) – Indonesia;
  17.  International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran – Iran;
  18. Joint Movement for NHRI and Optional Protocols – Japan;
  19. Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) – Timor Leste;
  20.  Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) – Thailand;
  21.  Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS) – South Korea;
  22. Law and Society Trust (LST) – Sri Lanka;
  23.  Lawyers’ League for Liberty (LIBERTAS) – Philippines;
  24. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) – Maldives;
  25. Odhikar – Bangladesh;
  26.  People’s Watch (PW) – India;
  27.  Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) – Philippines;
  28.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) – Malaysia;
  29. Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) – Taiwan;
  30.  Human Rights Forum (HRF) – Bangladesh

Download the letter with recommendations on the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission law here.

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This post is in: NHRC Monitor, Press Release

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