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Corruption, bribery 'embedded' in Myanmar judiciary system, says ICJ report

ICJ's Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi and HGP Than Than Aye seen at an event to release an ICJ report on December 3 (Photo- Nay Htun Naing/EMG)

Publication Date : 06-12-2013


Corruptions and bribery remain embedded in Myanmar’s judiciary system and the government and authorities continue to interfere in politically sensitive cases, the International Commission of Jurists said in a report released on Tuesday.

Right to Counsel: The Independence of Lawyers in Myanmar highlights the situation of lawyers in Myanmar’s judiciary system, the weaknesses of the judiciary system and suggestions from the ICJ to establish a judiciary system in line with international standards.

“Corruption is embedded in the judiciary system and many have accepted it. This is not surprising because international organisations have also pointed out this fact,” Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director of the ICJ, said at press conference launching the report held at the Chatrium Hotel on Tuesday.

Based on interviews with 60 lawyers, the report says that Myanmar’s lawyers still face restrictions and corruption in every aspect of their careers although they have enjoyed more freedom in the two years since the country began political reforms in 2011.

Lawyers working on politically sensitive cases still face uncertainties, and concern for personal safety and corruption can affect every aspect of a lawyer’s career, according to ICJ’s report.

“When the public also generally assumes that corruption undermines the legal system, this severely weakens the notion of rule of law,” Sam Zarifi was quoted as saying in the ICJ’s press release on Tuesday.

Sam Zarifi told Eleven Media that corruption was deeply rooted in Myanmar's judiciary system but added that the ICJ was not yet prepared to put a percentage figure on the problem and it was not appropriate to do so at this time. Transparency International has put Myanmar on the list of the most corrupt countries in the world, and so have the IMF and World Bank, he said.

As Myanmar’s judicial system had bribery and corruption, companies from those nations that have adopted anti-corruption policies would find it difficult to invest in Myanmar, he added.

One co-author of the ICJ report who studied corruption cases in the country’s judiciary sector believes that Myanmar should receive a high grade for corruption. He said the whole system was deteriorating and that there was bribery in every case.

“Every lawyer knows about this. Almost all cases have bribery even if there is no corruption.

Whenever police open a case through a direct complaint or civil case, there is bribery. But we cannot say exactly what percentage we have in the whole judiciary institution,” said HGP Than Than Aye.
The ICJ has made a series of recommendations to ensure that a judicial system with international standards emerges in Myanmar.

Its chief recommendation is that the Union Attorney-General and Union Parliament should significantly reform the Bar Council to ensure its independence and also create a specialised, independent mechanism mandated with prompt and effective criminal investigation of allegations of corruption. Another recommendation is that the Ministry of Education should, in consultation with the legal profession, commit to improving legal education in Myanmar by bolstering standards of admission to law school, law school curricula, and instruction and assessment of students.


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