“From arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment of activists to legally-sanctioned discrimination against minority groups, there is a pressing need for human rights reforms,” said Yamini Mishra
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Myanmar's newly elected government must prioritize human rights reforms after failing to do so in its first term, said Amnesty International today.
Amnesty International is presenting the newly elected government with an 11-point Human Rights Agenda, urging all Members of Parliament to make a public commitment to promote respect for the human rights of everyone. The full Human Rights Agenda is available here.
"The National League for Democracy (NLD) now has an important opportunity to pursue vital reforms in its second term," said Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.
"Having paid such a high price for their activism in the past – indeed, many party members are former prisoners of conscience themselves – it is high time the NLD used their new mandate to pursue critical reforms in favour of human rights.”
On 15 November 2020, Myanmar's Union Election Commission (UEC) confirmed Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) victory in the general elections held on 8 November, taking 396 of the 498 seats up for election in both chambers of parliament. The new government will be officially sworn in when the new parliament sits in early 2021.
Under the military-drafted Constitution, a further 166 seats – a quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats – are reserved for military appointees. The 8 November elections excluded the Rohingya population from voting. Furthermore, voting was cancelled in several areas, including conflict-hit ethnic minority areas such as in Rakhine State, where 1.5 million Rakhine people were unable to vote.
In 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD came to power after a landslide victory in November 2015.
"In her first term as Myanmar's de facto head of state, it was shocking to see how little Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was willing to do to improve the human rights situation. While constrained by the Constitution that gives the military entrenched powers, the NLD nevertheless has the majority needed to review and repeal or amend repressive laws,” said Yamini Mishra.
“These laws, often from the military era, underpin Myanmar’s shocking human rights record and should be consigned to the history books.”
Time to reform repressive laws
Amnesty International’s Human Rights Agenda highlights key legal reforms the government must undertake, including reforming or repealing the range of repressive laws used to arrest, prosecute and imprison individuals simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
Vital legal reforms are also needed to ensure women’s rights and gender equality, protect the rights of LGBTI people, and abolish the death penalty.
“From arbitrary arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment of activists to legally-sanctioned discrimination against minority groups, there is a pressing need for human rights reforms,” said Yamini Mishra.
“Besides legal reforms, there are executive decisions the new government can take in favour of human rights, including the immediate and unconditional release of all people jailed solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”
Amnesty International’s 2020 briefing "I Will Not Surrender”: The Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders and Activists in Myanmar, highlighted 16 recent cases of arbitrary and politically-motivated arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, involving 58 people.
Local civil society organization Athan estimates that at least 331 people were prosecuted in freedom of expression-related cases in 2019 alone.
Tags: MYANMAR, CENSORSHIP AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.
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