Press conference on performance of legal system in the first year of a new government

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Union Minister Dr Pe Myint clarifies holding the press conference on performance of governmental institutions in the first one-year period. Photo: Myanmar News Agency

A press conference on the performances of the country’s legal system in the first one-year period of the new government was held at a meeting hall of the Ministry of Information yesterday, during which Union Supreme Court officials said the release of a new code of ethics for judges was imminent.
Present at the press conference were Dr Pe Myint, Union Minister for Information, directors-general of the Union Supreme Court, responsible officials and local and foreign media.
Dr Pe Myint said the performances of ministries, major panels and regional and state cabinets have already been covered in state-run media, including TV broadcasts and daily newspaper articles.
“Our presentations are not sufficient enough. It is necessary for us to reply to questions raised. Today we are here meeting with the media to listen to criticisms and matters people want to point out. If there were some weak points and shortcomings in our statements, those present at the press conference can point out and enquire so that it will be more perfect. The aim of holding the press conference is to show that we have full responsibility and accountability. And, it is aimed at fulfilling the needs for our media-men to acquire more access to gather news and information”, Dr Pe Myint said.
Part of the performance reviews focused on the country’s legal system and its progress on judicial reform. An official for the Supreme Court of the Union revealed yesterday that updated code of ethics for judges was going to be announced in the near future.
“The Union Supreme Court will release a modern code of ethics for judges very soon”, said U Ko Ko Naing, director-general of the office of the supreme court.
“A strategic plan on judicial affairs had been compiled together with internationally aligned organisations to be able to make judicial reforms. The plan is to be able to perform the working process, policies and objectives of the Union Supreme Court. In the one-year period, 2016, there were case call lists of supreme courts of regions and states, criminal case call lists, civil case call lists and formal notes on case call lists posted on the website of the office of Union Supreme Court. For doing so, the public can know when and which case is to be heard and decided. The Office of the Union Supreme Court has been distributing news and information on judicial courts through the Facebook page of the Public Relations Branch, with judicial news and information being distributed through facebook pages of supreme courts of regions and states.”
U Ko Ko Naing said there are four different leaflets designed to increase the public’s knowledge of the courts and the criminal justice system — criminal cases, civil cases, formal notes on justice and the court of justice for you. The leaflets have been distributed through courts of justice and continue to be distributed to a wider audience. In addition, U Ko Ko Naing said one-stop counters for court-related needs have been initiated.
“In 2016, counters for correspondence, bailiff information, investigations counter and a bar counter were collectively assembled. It has been found that those present at courts could perform the routines at one place. Just after 2016, courts of justice were built with investigation counter, case reception counter, recreation lounges for witnesses, bar rooms, recreation centers for law officers and news media rooms separately.” The systematic reorganization of how court cases are filed and handled was also revamped, a court official said.
“Arrangement of cases were made with a view to dealing with the cases promptly and rightfully. In doing so, pilot courts of justice have been designated. In 2015, the court of justice in Hlinethaya township, Taungoo district court of justice and
Hpa-an township court of justice were designated as pilot courts of justices. Surveys of the clients at the courts were collected just prior to the management of the cases. A study on the assessment of the courts was performed. And a survey on closed cases were made in categories”, said Daw Aye Aye Kyi Thet, director-general of Union Justice Supervision Office of the Union Supreme Court.
After collection of the surveys, training workshops, including legal procedure management, were given to judges and court employees. In 2016, Monywa District Court, Mawlamyine District Court, Pathein District Court, Chanayethazan Township Court, Magway Township Court were designated as extended forerunning courts.
Afterwards, officials answered questions raised by reporters, one of whom asked whether prejudice and bribery cases occurred among judges and court employees during the one-year term of the incumbent government and whether action was taken against them. To this, the Union Supreme Court
Director General U Ko Ko Naing explained that misconduct could be reported to either the Supreme Court or the Anti-Corruption Commission. The Supreme Court investigates departments and then follows up with interrogation of staff members while the Anti-Corruption Commission follows up on individual reports, he said.
Another question was asked concerning the National Strategic Plan’s guidance for terming prolonged periods of investigations not as delaying of cases but rather conducting thorough investigations. The Union Supreme Court Deputy Director – General Daw Tin Nwe Soe replied that the three-year strategic plan for 2015-2017 is already in progress with the first step being relocating to forerunning courts, and then in 2015 procedures exceeded expectations while a survey for 2016 is still in progress and is expected to be ready for final report by June 2017.
The procedures for 2017 were issued in the one-year report for 2017 National Strategic Plan. The report can be viewed in the website of the Union Supreme Court, she said.
Daw Tin Nwe Soe also replied to a question asking about significant changes made during the one-year term of the government, saying there was successful construction of courts up to standards, access to information pertaining the courts, designation of areas where news agencies could collect information, uploading news on court procedures on websites and social media for mobile access, a decrease of unfinished court cases and a decrease of trial rescheduling.
On the question of whether bribery and corruption was prevalent in the judicial sector, currently there are complaints submitted through the President’s Office, State Counsellor’s Office and various Hluttaw Committees. The complaints are reviewed first with actual complaints to the courts reviewed next, while cases requiring further submission of appeals cannot be taken action against. If complaints of corruption were reported or discovered through news networks, then investigations will be conducted with collaboration with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the code of ethics for judges is to be issued.
Director General U Ko Ko Naing stated court cases are contests between two sides, so there are complaints reported but they are not abolished and there are judges listed in the Anti-Corruption Commission’s watch list.
The Director General replied to a comment stating there are insufficient amendments in the legal sector, stating that as the nature of the department goes, there are a plethora of complaints sent to them but corrections and amendments are slowly being made. He further stated complaints differ in points of views and conclusions. In this transparent age there should be freedom in reviewing and criticism of complaints.
A question was raised asking what the highest punishment for judges accepting bribery. To this, Director General U Ko Ko Naing replied there were complaints reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission. Through departmental investigations, dismissals were the only option. However a lawsuit can be opened at the concerned court if a fitting punishment is desired. —Min Min Zaw and Team

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