- By Naing Lin Kyi
Following is the interview with the Director-General of the Office of the Union Supreme Court 0f the Union, U Ko Ko Naing, and Director-General for the Judiciary Supervision Office of the Supreme Court, Daw Tin Nwe Soe, on the Supreme Court’s progress in the second year of the incubent government.
U Ko Ko Naing
Q: What were some of the targets for serving the public sector?
A: It’s always in the Supreme Court of the Union’s interest to maintain fairness and equality regarding justice and to make the courts a place the people can rely on. There are five parts to our 2018-2022 Master Strategic Plan; 1. Ensuring judicial services is accessible by all, 2. Raising the public’s awareness, 3. Improving the freedom and administration regarding judicial decisions, 4. Raising the skills and accountability of the judicial sector, 5. Improving the works
on criminal and special criminal cases.
As for recent accomplishments, we’ve managed to release the 2016 judiciary report on 15 June 2017. The report is exact and shows the changes and improvements of the
justice system in Myanmar for all to see. We released the code of ethics for judges on 2 August 2017, and I think it will raise awareness on how the justice system works for not only the judges but anyone involved in the judiciary sector.
We’ve distributed pamphlets to the public, conducted tours of the courts for people interested, distributed a court media guidebook, and had 150 sessions between the court information officers and media throughout the entire country.
We’ve also issued official certificates to 1,819 internship lawyers and 879 high court lawyers in 2017. We announce the candidates’ names on our website and on our Facebook page too. Our very own Supreme Court Judges conferred the certificates to 2,352 candidates in an official ceremony.
Daw Tin Nwe Soe
Q: Could you tell us the work done for effective judicial decisions?
A: For my part, what I have done over the previous years is inspect the criminal procedures of all levels of court, overlook the formation of new courts, handover of court responsibilities, and the rights of inmates and prisoners.
We’ve managed to reduce court sessions and modernize criminal investigation procedures. This strategy was applied to three courts in June 2015 and to five in August 2016. What that means is that if witnesses do not come to court hearings then the case is revoked, reducing unnecessary procedures, and systemizing and informing both sides of a case how evidence and witnesses will be called upon and in which hearing. We’re digitizing these processes for effective tracking.
In the Taungoo, Hlinethaya, and Hpa-An District Courts, public satisfaction has risen to 68 per cent as of 2017. We have relayed power to Kokan administration for the court in Laukkai and also in Danu Self Administrative Zone. We’ve amended four Laws and a Bylaw and drafted a new Bylaw for the judicial sector too.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about improvements to the rights of inmates?
A: We’ve conducted numerous field inspections to prisons to check on the conditions of inmates. To be exact, judges from all levels of the judiciary sector visited prisons 61 times, jail cells 445 times, and police detention centers 26 times in 2017.
Despite our efforts, we are not at 100 per cent efficiency yet. There has been some drawbacks and challenges along the way. The main reason for this is a shortage of a capable workforce, supplies, and the allotted budget. Of course, we cannot do it alone. Government departments, the private and public sector are all involved in judicial matters so their input are necessary for effectiveness too.
A noticeable difference in our new strategic plan is that the Union Supreme Court is not the all-powerful facilitator of the implementation phases but rather all level of judiciary are responsible for their own administration.
Q: Could you tell us about the shortcomings of the security of courts?
A: Well, it’s plain for everyone to see how sorrowful it is. We consider the safety of all who come to court, from the judges to the laymen. We’ve included
it in section-4 of our strategic plan.
On a different note, we’re continuously conducting capacity building workshops from international relations, human rights, and to democratic justice. We’re also building residences for the judges and other staff of the courts in line with our allotted budget.
Q: What else is needed to strengthen the judiciary sector?
A: It’s not just Myanmar, but all the countries in the world have to continuously strengthen the judiciary sector. It is something that involves everyone from the State to the individual citizen. We are tasked with representing the State in all matters of legal affairs and we will strive to improve it. If everyone cooperates then it will get better.
Q: What should the public do to become more aware of legal matters?
A: Here is where the media sector plays a major role. We need to be transparent of our proceedings and changes we make to the justice system. We have information officers in every court and we hold discussions or press conferences to relay information.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: We’ve released the strategic plan for 2018-2022 in January and we’ve held a press conference for that. We will need much support from international organisations to achieve our goals. But it will be a better judiciary system for everyone.
U Aye Myint, Independent Lawyer’s Association of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw Council
There have been many improvements in the past two years. The nature of court cases is that one side will lose and it is the court’s job to reach a just decision from paper evidence.
But the situation has improved a lot.
There needs to be more legal awareness among the people as it not only informs them of their rights but also deters some from disobeying the law. There are still some cases where people break the law unintentionally but the court does not forgive that fact. So I think there needs to be more awareness.
Translated by Chris