On 5 September 2011, Burma’s regime announced that it had established a national human rights commission charged with promoting and safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens in accordance with the 2008 Constitution.
The establishment of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) was a clear attempt at placating the international community and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, who had been calling for the establishment
of a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into crimes against humanity and war crimes in the country.
However for many reasons, the MNHRC cannot be considered as a possible internal mechanism that could carry out investigations into human rights violations, and therefore replace a CoI.
Win Mra, Chairman of the MNHRC, clearly stated in an interview that the MNHRC would not investigate human rights abuses in ethnic conflict areas. Moreover, the commission would not have the mandate to look into abuses committed before its establishment and therefore cannot replace a truth seeking mechanism, such as a Commission of Inquiry.
Above all, the MNHRC is not an independent and effective mechanism.
In 1991, the previous Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, convened a conference of national human rights institutions (NHRI) to define common attributes that all new or existing NHRIs should possess. Because the meeting was held in Paris, the resulting standards came to be known as the “Paris Principles.”
The Paris Principles were then adopted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1993. These principles are minimum conditions that must be met for a NHRI to be considered independent and effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the people.
Despite what Win Mra claims, the MNHRC is clearly in violation of the Paris Principles. No official information about the procedure, mandate, and responsibilities of the commission has been made accessible to the public and, in particular, victims of human rights violations. The entire process of establishing the MNHRC has been everything but inclusive and transparent.
Moreover, the MNHRC has no independence and autonomy from the government as President Thein Sein both established the commission and appointed its members, all of whom are “retired” civil servants who have a past history of defending the military regime’s record of human rights violations.
Therefore, the international community should call on the regime to take the necessary steps to make the MNHRC a truly independent and effective mechanism.
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Acceptance of Complaints (26 September 2013)
Statement No. (2/2013) Regarding the Conflict in Kachin State (28 March 2013)
Statement (8/2012) on the International Human Rights Day (10 December 2012)
Statement on Its Trip to the Kachin State (5/2012) (14 August 2012)
Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (14 January 2012)
Statement on its visit to Kachin State (13 December 2011)
Statement on International Human Rights Day (10 December 2011)
Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (27 November 2011)
Open Letter to President Thein Sein (12 November 2011)
Open Letter to President Thein Sein (10 October 2011)
Myanmar National Human Rights Commission – Accepting of Complaint (6 October 2011)
Presentation by Win Mra on Recent Developments on Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) Complaints Handling, Investigations and Cooperation with the Special Procedures of the United Nations (May 2013)