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New Report Exposes the Continued Ineffectiveness of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

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By Burma Partnership, Equality Myanmar & Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

(25 September 2014, Yangon) –  Today, the 2014 report on the performance of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), All the President’s Men, was released at the Myanmar Journalists Network in Rangoon. Co-authored by Burma Partnership and Equality Myanmar, the report, which contributed to the annual report, Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia (2014), highlights the lack of effectiveness and independence of the MNHRC, covering significant events and trends of the latter half of 2013 and the first half of 2014.

By highlighting prominent examples of systematic and widespread incidents of human rights violations, such as the extreme violence in Arakan State and the use of sexual assault as a weapon in conflict zones by the Burma Army, especially against Kachin women, the report conveys how the MNRHC has not actualized its mandate and performed its role as the public defender of defenders adequately.

“Old forms of human rights violations continue and in some areas of the country they have increased significantly despite the new government and establishment of the MNHRC,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership, “Religious violence and the violence and war crimes committed by the Burma Army are resulting in the most serious of human rights violations in Burma’s long suffering ethnic areas. It is deeply disappointing to see that the MNHRC, despite the atrocities, is not taking a stand and an action for the victims.”

It is in such situations that the MNHRC is expected to display integrity, moral courage, competence as well as sound judgement in the discharge of their duties and to exhibit sufficient independence from executive influence to warrant any public credibility, thereby becoming an essential actor in the fight against impunity.​

Furthermore, the report analyzes the recently enacted enabling law that gives the MNHRC its’ mandate. It finds that according to this law, the MNHRC lacks independence from the government and in particular the President’s Office, thus delegitimizing it as an institution. “The selection of the MNHRC’s members as well as the final say in key processes always make their way back to the President’s Office. So who is the MNHRC for, the people, or the government?” said Aung Myo Min, Executive Director of Equality Myanmar.

“People have lost faith in the MNHRC due to its lack of willingness to address some of the most serious human rights violations in the country. The MNHRC has to improve its effectiveness and efficiency, and meanwhile government authorities and departments must respect the role and mandate of the NMHRC and allow it to carry out its’ activities without restrictions,” he continued.

“The performance of MNHRC thus far has been disappointing and inadequate in proportion to the intensification of rights abuses, lack of accountability and increasing sophistication employed by the State”, added Joses Kuan from the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), which acts as the secretariat of ANNI. He further warned that the MNHRC risks being used to legitimize the State.

“The reconstitution of the MNHRC next year presents a fresh opportunity to display its relevance and credibility to its key stakeholders, particularly human rights defenders and victims of violations on the ground. While other domestic protection and accountability mechanisms still remain weak, the MNHRC cannot afford to be yet another ‘alibi’ institution of the State in human rights governance and within the national protection system”, said Joses Kuan.

The annual ANNI report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia (2014) consisting of 15 national chapters was launched in New Delhi, India at its Regional Conference held on 1-3 September 2014.

The full report is available on FORUM-ASIA’s website

Download the Report All the President’s Men in English and Burmese

For more information and media interview please contact:

Khin Ohmar: +95 (0) 9450063714, [email protected] (Burmese, English)

Aung Myo Min: +95 (0) 9448015306, [email protected] (Burmese, English)

Joses Kuan: +95 (0) 9975012428, [email protected]  (English)

Download the English version of the press release (PDF)

Download the Burmese version of the press release (PDF)