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Rule By Law: An Analysis of the Use of Legislation to Stifle Civil Society Space in Burma

By Burma Partnership  •  September 30, 2013

The fact that a corrupt and compliant judiciary is already using recently enacted legislation to silence human rights defenders (HRDs) and stifle civil society space betrays the Burma government’s motivations for initiating new legislation on media and civil society organizations (CSOs). Such legislation only furthers repression, censorship and government control rather than democracy, human rights and the rule of law. For the reality is that it is not “rule of law” but “rule by law” that characterizes President Thein Sein’s Burma. Repressive legislation represents a more sophisticated and subtle tactic than the knee-jerk violence and disappearances of times past; and under this veil of legitimacy, the Burma government can restrict people’s rights, control civil society, and silence those who threaten the regime’s supremacy – as other countries in the region do – without the international community feeling the need to question its risky and dubious policy of full engagement and investment.

It is high time, however, that the international community peered behind the veil and took note of some of the more sinister undertones to Burma’s recent reforms. By adjusting its own tactics in response, the international community can maintain some degree of leverage and ensure that Burma remains on a path towards true democracy where the rule of law prevails rather than towards a faux democracy just palatable enough for its doors to be open for business. The incentive is that Burma now has an unprecedented opportunity to take its rightful place as a genuine political and economic player on the world stage.

This paper is primarily an analysis of the raft of legislation that is in the process of being pushed through parliament to target HRDs, activists, protestors and CSOs, and the threat that such legislation poses to their fundamental rights – which Burma is legally bound to respect and protect under the 2008 Constitution. This paper will also look at the current situation of political prisoners to demonstrate how the legislation is being misused in collaboration with a compliant judiciary and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, before finally making recommendations to the UN Members States.

Download the briefing paper here.

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This post is in: Law, Spotlight

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