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NNWN/02/03/2021

International rights bodies have demanded from  Myanmar's military government to reverse its post-coup d’etat revisions of legal protections for human rights in the country. Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC), appointed by the military junta after after the coup on February 1, has made few revisions in the legal system that criminalizes peaceful protests, and enable violations of the right to privacy and arbitrary arrests and detention. The changes were made on the orders of Commander-in-Chief, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on behalf of the SAC, and outside the parliamentary process.

“As Myanmar’s military increasingly relies on excessive force and intimidation to quell peaceful protests against its coup, it is trying to give a veneer of legality to its actions by subverting existing protections in the legal system,” said Ian Seiderman. ICJ’s Director of Law and Policy. “These revisions, which violate the principle of legality and Myanmar’s international obligations, in no way excuse or legitimate the widespread violations of human rights now taking place in Myanmar,.”the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and Human Rights Watch said. 

Since the coup on February 1, the military junta has arbitrarily suspended sections of the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens (2017), removing basic protections, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention and the right to be free of warrant less surveillance and search and seizure;, amended the Penal Code to create new offenses and expand existing offenses to target those speaking critically of the coup and the military, and those encouraging others to support the “Civil Disobedience Movement,”, amended the Ward and Tract Administration Law to reinstate the requirement to report overnight guests, amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to make the new and revised offenses non-bailable and subject to warrant less arrest; and amended the Electronic Transactions Law to prevent the free flow of information and criminalize the dissemination of information through cyberspace, including expression critical of the coup or the acts of the junta.

Under international legal standards, any restrictions on human rights must be strictly necessary to protect a legitimate interest and proportionate to the interest being protected, even in times of public emergency or for legitimate national security purposes (conditions that do not apply in Myanmar currently). The orders issued by the SAC fail to meet that standard, as they will arbitrarily interfere with the exercise of rights protected under international law, including freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to liberty, and the right to privacy. Certain rights, such as the rights to bodily integrity and nondiscrimination, are not subject to restriction. “By stripping the people of Myanmar of their basic rights, the military is once again demonstrating its disdain for international human rights protections,” said Linda Lakhdir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The junta cannot justify the oppression of Myanmar’s inhabitants through the unilateral creation of arbitrary new laws.”