Today Fortify Rights issued a press release and published a open letter signed by six leading international human rights organisations (including the ICJ) calling for the Myanmar government to drop the criminal charges against Kachin human rights defender Brang Shawng. The press release and open letter are available online at: http://www.fortifyrights.org/publications.html.
This case highlights the role of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC). Brang Shawng was charged with ‘bringing false charges’ by the military for filing a complaint with the MNHRC. This calls into question the MNHRC’s willingness to properly receive and handle complaints and defend victims of human rights abuses and their families who seek the MNHRC’s assistance. The United Nations Paris Principles outline international standards for the operations of national human rights institutions and emphasise the importance of ensuring they are independent, autonomous, and able to operate free from government interference. Moreover, according to the MNHRC Law in Myanmar, third parties “should not victimise, intimidate, harass or otherwise interfere with” an individual because he or she provides information to the MNHRC. By reportedly refusing to assist Brang Shawng, the MNHRC may have failed to meet its obligations under the Paris Principles and domestic law, raising serious concerns about the efficacy of the current MNHRC and suggesting the need for fundamental reform of the body.
Rather than prosecute Brang Shawng, the organizations are asking the Myanmar authorities to investigate Ja Seng Ing’s death, hold perpetrators accountable, and take measures to ensure that Myanmar’s courts and the MNHRC appropriately handle such cases in the future. Unless the MNHRC can act independently and receive complaints against the government, ione of the few remedies for victims of human rights abuses in Myanmar will be negated.
The full letter is available here: http://www.fortifyrights.org/downloads/Brang_Shawng_Letter_20141208.pdf