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Open Letter: Civil Society Consultation on the Enabling Law of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

By Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions  •  May 8, 2013

U Thein Sein
President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Nay Pyi Taw
Myanmar

Your Excellency

Re: Public Consultations on the Enabling Law of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

We are writing as the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI), a network of 30-member organizations from 17 countries across Asia. Since its establishment in 2006, ANNI has worked on advocating for the strengthening of the independence and effectiveness of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Asia. Our work has included, among others, the publication of annual reports on NHRIs in Asia, active engagements with the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs (APF), and the submission of NGO parallel reports to the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC), during the latter’s accreditation reviews of Asian NHRIs.

Mr. President,

It has come to our knowledge that the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has been tasked with drafting the Commission’s enabling law in collaboration with the President’s Office and that a draft of the legislation will be soon submitted to the Parliament.

As you are aware, the UN Principles relating to the status of national institutions (Paris Principles) set out the minimum international standards required for NHRIs to effectively fulfill their role. While we welcome the positive initiative to enact an enabling law for the establishment of the MNHRC in place of the 2011 Presidential Decree, we stress that the enabling law must fully comply with the Paris Principles, including by ensuring that the MNHRC has a broad mandate based on universal human rights principles, that its membership reflects pluralism, that the selection process of its members ensures inclusive representation, including that of civil society, and that the MNHRC is accorded adequate financial independence and resources as well as power of investigation.

In this context, we express our serious concern that the draft legislation has thus far not been made public and that consultation with civil society organizations has been limited and non-inclusive, thus preventing robust public scrutiny and input that are vital to ensure the draft law’s full compliance with all aspects of the Paris Principles. Furthermore, including civil society in the process of drafting the MNHRC’s enabling law is essential to generate publicity and awareness around the Commission and for attaining public legitimacy. We wish to also emphasize that the ICC places high importance in NHRI-civil society engagements in determining the accreditation of NHRIs.

In this regard, we wish to echo the call for transparency and inclusiveness in the drafting of MNHRC’s enabling law, made in a statement issued in May 2012 by 54 civil society and community based-organizations and networks (attached to this letter).

We thus call for the immediate publication of the full text of the draft enabling law and for a consultation process that includes all relevant stakeholders, including both registered and non-registered civil society and community-based organizations, grassroots peoples and communities throughout the country, especially those from ethnic areas and women’s groups, as well as the media.

 

It is further of utmost importance to ensure that the publication of the draft legislation also be made available in Burmese and other ethnic nationalities languages, and that they are disseminated widely, especially through the media. We also stress that sufficient time is provided for the public to provide feedback on its content and meaningfully participate in the drafting process.

In the absence of any expressed commitment for further genuine and broad-based participation in the drafting process, we strongly believe that the bill’s deliberation in Parliament should be delayed or suspended. Proceeding with enacting an enabling law without ensuring a transparent process and inclusive consultations would only result in a Commission that does not meet the criteria for international recognition as a credible NHRI.

We thank you for your kind consideration of our concerns and recommendations. We are at your disposal should you have any questions or should you wish to schedule a meeting to discuss this issue. 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.

We thank you for your kind attention and hope to receive a reply from your goodself.

Yours 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

This letter is also endorsed by:

  1. All Kachin Students and Youth Union;
  2. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma;
  3. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters;
  4. Burma Issues;
  5. Burma Partnership;
  6. Forum for Democracy in Burma;
  7. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma;
  8. Human Rights Foundation of Monland;
  9. Institute of Economic and Development Watch;
  10. Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand;
  11. Karen Human Rights Group;
  12. Kayan Women’s Organization;
  13. Mon Childcare Association;
  14. Movement For Democracy Current Force;
  15. Myanmar Youth Empowerment Programme;
  16. Nationalities Youth Forum;
  17. Palaung Women’s Organization;
  18. Peoples’ Defense Force;
  19. Shwe Gas Movement;
  20. Students and Youth Congress of Burma;
  21. The Best Friend Library;
  22. Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization;
  23. Tavoy Women’s Union;
  24. Tavoyan Youth Organization;
  25. Women’s League of Burma

Cc: U Win Mra, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

View the open letter to Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann here.

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This post is in: NHRC Monitor, Press Release

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