The Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI), together with partners Perseus Strategies and New Perimeter, launched a new report presenting an in-depth assessment of rule of law reform needs in Burma. Key Burma experts, U.S. and other policymakers attended the launch at a meeting in Washington DC on March 5. As noted in The Irrawaddy and Trust Law, the discussion focused on reforming Burma’s Constitution, and the incorporation of international human rights standards and civil society participation in the rule of law reform process. In line with these recommendations, on March 20 the Burmese parliament agreed to create a commission to review the controversial 2008 Constitution.
Burma is transitioning from 50 years of military rule marked by rights abuses to a more democratic government. In the past two years, Burma has released Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and registered her National League for Democracy political party, which won 43 of 45 available seats in April 2012 parliamentary by-elections. Other reforms include the release of approximately 800 political prisoners (although many were conditionally released); decreased restrictions on the internet and media; the establishment of a new National Human Rights Commission; and signing of preliminary ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups.
The Rule of Law Assessment Report (the “Assessment”) identifies needs and responses that would expedite the rule of law reform process required in Burma to ensure that transition continues. It presents an overview of initial and needed reforms, encouraging integration of universal human rights principles in the rule of law reform process, and providing guidance and recommendations to all those who will engage with local actors in Burma. This will allow international actors to help move the law reform process from the current state where promises are made by Burma to the international community to one where reforms are implemented in Burma both on paper and in practice.