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Burma: Proposal to Monitor Court Cases

(Sept. 13, 2013) Thura Aung Ko, a legislator in Burma’s (Myanmar’s) parliament, announced on September 7, 2013, that legislation will be drafted to create groups to monitor judicial proceedings. The purpose, according to Aung Ko, is to end corruption in the court system; it is not designed, the legislator asserted, to interfere with the independence of the judiciary. The legislator also has in mind amending laws in order to permit photography and video recording in courtrooms. There is no timetable yet for the introduction of the legislation. (Max Slater, Myanmar Proposes Law to Scrutinize Judicial Proceedings, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Sept. 9, 2013).)

The monitoring groups are to include legal experts, media representatives, and town elders. Their function will be to observe cases for the record, not to interfere with the justice process. Aung Ko noted, “[i]n mature democratic countries like in the [sic] Europe, judges and lawyers have no more [been] subjected to bribery and corruption. They will not lose their dignity in exchange for 100 million dollars. So, it is not necessary to monitor their courts. Myanmar needs them.” (Myanmar to Draft Law to Form Court Monitoring Groups Including Media Reps, ELEVEN (Sept. 8, 2013).)

The rationale for permitting cameras in the courtroom, in Aung Ko’s view, is that the Constitution of Burma states that other than in exceptional cases, trials must be public. (Id.) The Constitution does state that the judicial system is to “dispense justice in open court unless otherwise prohibited by law.” (Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008), art. 19(b), World Intellectual Property Organization website.)