Blog: Myanmar

April 9, 2017

Monday, April 10: One year in: Examining Myanmar’s democratic transition


Myanmar_Poster FinalMonday, April 10, 2017


“One year in: Examining Myanmar’s democratic transition”


A talk by Matthew Bugher, JD ’09


12:00- 1:00 p.m.
WCC 4059


Please join us for a talk by Matthew Bugher, an HLS alumnus with experience investigating international crimes in Myanmar. He will discuss his work promoting accountability for human rights abuses, and reflect on the possible establishment of an international commission of inquiry for decades of violations in Myanmar.

This talk is part of a two-part series that looks at change in Myanmar since the election of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and the progress underway to protect human rights, achieve peace, and address the legacy of abuses and conflict in Myanmar dating back to the 1950s.

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April 6, 2017

WEBINAR: Human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule

Several weeks ago, Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and Yee Htun, Clinical Advocacy Fellow, presented a webinar for Harvard Law School alumni on human rights and Myanmar’s transition from military rule. The talk was so popular, the school asked if it could feature it as part of its bicentennial celebration.

Great work, Tyler and Yee.

 

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March 30, 2017

Op-Ed: UN investigation can help Myanmar down the path of democracy


This opinion piece by Clinical Advocacy Fellow Yee Htun and Tyler Giannini, co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic, appeared in The Irrawaddy on March 29, 2017


UN Investigation Can Help Myanmar Down the Path of Democracy



At first glance, the UN Human Rights Council resolution passed on Myanmar looks like a rebuke of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The resolution calls for an international investigation into “alleged recent human rights violations by the military and security forces,” singling out Rakhine State in particular for scrutiny.

Given her muted public response to the violence, her government’s denials, and the lack of any serious domestic investigation to date, it would be easy to lay a lot of the blame at Aung San Suu Kyi’s door. But the real story remains in plain sight: there are roadblocks that prevent her and the civilian government from investigating and controlling the abuses of security forces. These roadblocks are rooted in the country’s Constitution, adopted by the military in 2008, and until they are removed, domestic and international maneuvering will be necessary to pressure the military to change its violent ways.

This is not the first time that we have seen Myanmar’s Constitution fail its citizens. Despite her party winning the first open elections in a generation, Aung San Suu Kyi herself was denied the presidency under the Constitution. She and her party had to resort to creating a new position – State Counselor – that has made her the de facto leader of the government. It was a creative, and necessary, move to bring a just outcome to the election.

Similarly, the international investigation is a necessary move, given that Myanmar is missing the basic checks that a functioning democracy requires. Since October, the security forces have allegedly killed as many as 1,000 people and forced an estimated 77,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes in northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh. These security forces are legally and factually controlled by the military. Continue Reading…

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March 17, 2017

Monday, March 20: A year in: Examining Myanmar’s democratic transition


Myanmar_finalMarch 20, 2017

A Year In: Examining Myanmar’s Democratic Transition 

A talk by May Sabe Phyu,
Kachin leader and winner of “International Woman of Courage” award

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
WCC 4059
Harvard Law School

Lunch will be provided



Please join us for a talk by May Sabe Phyu, a Kachin leader and a winner of the State Department’s “International Woman of Courage” award. She will discuss efforts to prevent violence against women; the ongoing armed conflicts in Kachin and Shan States; and how peace activists are attempting to address entrenched militarization in the country.

This is the first talk in a two-part lunch series that looks at changes in Myanmar since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy took power in the wake of the first free and open election in a generation. The series will examine the progress underway to protect human rights, achieve peace, and address the legacy of abuses and conflict in Myanmar dating back to the 1950s.

For the second talk, on April 10, Matthew Bugher, an HLS alumnus with investigative experience into international crimes in Myanmar, will discuss accountability efforts in the country, including a major investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

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February 28, 2017

Tomorrow, March 1: “Shifting Grounds in International Human Rights”


Shifting GroundsMarch 1, 2017

“Shifting Grounds in International Human Rights”

12:00- 1:00 p.m.
WCC 3016

Please join the Human Rights Program for a panel discussion on how the international human rights landscape has changed since President Trump took office. HRP’s resident scholars and advocates will examine the question: what impact is the change of administration having on the work of international human rights scholars, lawyers, and activists working internationally? Panelists will address a range of topics, including women’s rights, LGBTQI rights, and the rights of religious minorities, and examine these issues in contexts where human rights are already under threat, such as Myanmar and the Middle East.

October 20, 2016

Alleged abuses against civilians in non-ceasefire areas may constitute violations of Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement


PRESS RELEASE

Alleged abuses against civilians in non-ceasefire areas may constitute violations of Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

Legal analysis shows ceasefire’s civilian protection commitments extend nationwide

 

(Cambridge, MA, October 20, 2016)–  Reported abuses of civilians in non-ceasefire areas by the Myanmar military and other signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) would, if verified, constitute violations of key civilian protection provisions established by the agreement, said Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (the Clinic) in a legal memorandum released today. The military and other signatories should act immediately to address such reports, including by engaging with the mechanisms and processes established by the NCA and investigating alleged abuses.

The Clinic’s memorandum comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the signing of the NCA by the government and eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). While the agreement failed to include many of the EAOs that participated in the ceasefire talks, it was still heralded as a significant step in the country’s peace process. Over the past year, however, armed conflict has intensified in Shan State, Kachin State, and elsewhere, with reports of widespread abuse of civilians by the Myanmar military in particular.

“Ongoing abuses in conflict zones cast doubt on the military’s commitment to the NCA and undermine the trust between Myanmar’s government and ethnic nationality populations,” said Tyler Giannini, Co-Director of the Clinic. “Myanmar military officers can’t hide behind the fact the NCA was signed with only some ethnic armed organizations to abuse civilians in non-ceasefire areas.” Continue Reading…

September 20, 2016

The Clinic Welcomes New Advocacy Fellows

Posted by Cara Solomon

Now that we’re in the rhythm of the semester, it’s time to introduce some new faces in the International Human Rights Clinic. We’re thrilled to welcome five new clinical advocacy fellows, all accomplished lawyers with different expertise and experiences. They’re leading clinical projects this semester on a range of new topics, from human rights protection in investment treaties to armed conflict and the environment.

The Clinic's new advocacy fellows, from top right: Rebecca Agule, Yee Htun, Fola Adeleke, Juan Pablo Calderon-Meza, and Salma Waheedi.

The Clinic’s new advocacy fellows, from top left: Rebecca Agule, Yee Htun, Fola Adeleke, Juan Pablo Calderon-Meza, and Salma Waheedi.

In alphabetical order, here they are:

Fola Adeleke is a South African-trained lawyer who specializes in international economic law and human rights, corporate transparency, open government and accountability within the extractives industry. This semester, his projects focus on human rights protection in investment treaties and reconfiguring the licensing process of mining to include more consultation with communities.

Rebecca Agule, an alumna of the Clinic, is an American lawyer who specializes in the impact of conflict and violence upon individuals, communities, and the environment. This semester, her project focuses on armed conflict and the environment, with a focus on victim assistance.

Juan Pablo Calderón-Meza, a former Visiting Fellow with the Human Rights Program, is a Colombian attorney whose practice specializes in international law and human rights advocacy and litigation. This semester, his project focuses on accountability for corporations and executives that facilitated human rights abuses and atrocity crimes.

Yee Htun is the Director of  the Myanmar Program for Justice Trust, a legal non-profit that partners with lawyers and activists to strengthen communities fighting for justice and human rights. Born in Myanmar and trained as a lawyer in Canada, Yee specializes in gender justice and working on behalf of refugee and migrant communities. This semester, her project focuses on women advocates in Myanmar.

Salma Waheedi is an attorney who specializes in international human rights law, Islamic law, gender justice, family law, comparative constitutional law, and refugee and asylum law. Born in Bahrain and trained as a lawyer in the U.S., Salma currently holds a joint appointment with Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, where she focuses on family relations in Islamic jurisprudence. This semester, her project focuses on gender justice under Islam.

We’re so pleased to have the fellows as part of our community this semester. Please swing by at some point to introduce yourself and say hello.

June 9, 2016

Joint Statement: Five Years of War- A Call for Peace, Justice and Accountability in Myanmar

Today marks the grim five-year anniversary of the resumption of armed conflict in Myanmar’s Kachin State. This conflict, between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army, has displaced more than 100,000 civilians. Organizations at the local and international level have also documented severe human rights violations perpetrated by the Myanmar military, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and sexual violence and forced labor.

The International Human Rights Clinic today joins 129 other organizations in calling for peace, justice and accountability in Kachin State.

“Joint Statement: Five Years of War- A Call for Peace, Justice and Accountability in Kachin State”

(June 9, 2016)— Although much of the world has expressed excitement over Myanmar’s political transition, communities throughout Kachin and northern Shan states have been living with severe human rights abuses and displacement for the last five years.

Since 2011, renewed armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has displaced more than 100,000 civilians. Continue Reading…

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May 20, 2016

Video Slideshow: “Women’s Voices Matter” in Myanmar

Posted by Cara Solomon and Tyler Giannini

The International Human Rights Clinic had the great honor last month of hosting a three-day workshop in Yangon for some of the leading women advocates in Myanmar- all of them pioneers in their various fields, and all of them pushing for change. The training, facilitated by The Op-Ed Project, focused on voice and messaging in the media’s opinion sections, where women’s bylines are too rarely found.

The title of the workshop: “Write to Change the World.” Below, some images from those three days, with thanks and appreciation for what these women have done to strengthen the world already, and what they will surely do in the decades to come.

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April 14, 2016

Myanmar: Investigate Use of Excessive Force Against Letpadan Protesters


Press release


Myanmar: Investigate Use of Excessive Force Against Letpadan Protesters

Hold perpetrators accountable, amend peaceful assembly law


(Yangon, April 14, 2016)—While welcoming the Government of Myanmar’s recent release of political prisoners, Fortify Rights and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic urged authorities today to open a formal investigation into the violent police crackdown against protesters in March 2015 in Letpadan.

The Letpadan protesters were among nearly 200 political prisoners that the recently elected Government of Myanmar—led by the National League for Democracy (NLD)—either pardoned or dropped charges against on April 8. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi announced on her second day in office a plan to free political prisoners, activists, and students in the weeks surrounding the Buddhist New Year holiday. According to human rights groups, more than 100 political prisoners remain behind bars.

“After spending more than a year in prison for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, the Letpadan protesters are finally free,” said Matthew Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Their courage and tenacity is an example to human rights defenders across the world. We commend the government for prioritizing their release and urge the authorities to take swift action to hold perpetrators accountable.”

In October 2015, Fortify Rights and the Clinic at Harvard Law School published an 81-page report documenting how Myanmar police officers punched, kicked, and beat unarmed protesters with batons on their heads, backs, and legs at Letpadan on March 10, 2015. Hundreds of photographs and dozens of videos from journalists and other witnesses show police officers beating unarmed protesters. Still, more than a year later, the authorities have failed to hold anyone responsible for the use of excessive force.

In January 2016, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), the Letpadan Justice Committee, and Justice Trust released a briefing paper detailing how Myanmar authorities repeatedly delayed the trials of students arrested at Letpadan and denied them access to adequate medical treatment while in prison.

In addition to investigating the abuses, Fortify Rights and the Clinic at Harvard Law School called for the government to hold police officers responsible for using excessive force against protesters. The government should investigate commanders and officials who gave orders to use excessive force or failed to take reasonable measures to prevent such conduct.

“Releasing these protesters and dropping the charges against them is a positive and historic step,” said Tyler Giannini, Director of the Clinic at Harvard Law School. “We look forward to the government upholding its promise to follow the rule of law by investigating and holding perpetrators to account.”

The October 2015 report makes clear that not all police officers at the scene in March 2015 participated in violence. Some police officers used riot shields or their own bodies to protect protesters from attack by other police officers, providing further evidence of the unjustified use of force by some officers. Fortify Rights and the Clinic urged the authorities to highlight commendable police action in any investigation.

The protests in Letpadan stemmed from the September 2014 passage of the National Education Law, which critics said failed to protect the right to form unions and failed to accommodate ethnic communities, among other alleged shortcomings. Protesters in Myanmar took to the streets in January 2015 and continued to march in various locations throughout the country over the next several months.

Many of the Letpadan protesters faced charges under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, which requires prior authorization or consent for assemblies and provides penalties of fines and imprisonment for failure to comply, infringing on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Fortify Rights and the Clinic at Harvard Law School encourage the NLD Government to repeal or amend the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law to bring it in line with international standards and to prevent it from being used to target human rights defenders.

For more information, please contact:

Matthew Smith, Executive Director, Fortify Rights +1.202.503.8032,
matthew.smith@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @matthewfsmith @FortifyRights, www.fortifyrights.org

Tyler Giannini, Director, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic: +1-617-496-7368,
giannini@law.harvard.edu; Twitter: @HmnRghtsProgram