The Union Attorney General’s Office launched the Fair Trial Guidebook for Law Officers in Naypyitaw, capping a two-year effort to draft an official set of guidelines that set forth how prosecuting law officers in Myanmar should conduct their duties in criminal cases. What makes the Guidebook unique is that it is based on due process founded almost entirely upon Myanmar’s national laws and Constitutional articles, with references to international standards serving as additional information to illustrate key principles. As a result, the Fair Trial Guidebook is directly relevant to the law officers in their daily work, and can be used by all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
The effort began two years ago when UNDP, with support from IDLO, provided translations of international fair trial manuals to the UAGO. After review by the Union Attorney General’s working group for the Fair Trial Guidebook, it was decided that relying on international sources of law, opinions from foreign jurisdictions, and references to treaties to which Myanmar is not yet a party, would not be a helpful resource for law officers. Over the past year, UNDP and IDLO supported the UAGO to develop their own Fair Trial Guidebook that was modeled on international guidebooks, but with case decisions from Myanmar courts, and legal citations to Myanmar laws. The principles contained in the Guidebook are well-aligned to international standards, and include the right to remain silent, the right to be free from arbitrary detention, the right to be present at all stages of the trial, and the right to counsel, among others. The Fair Trial Guidebook for Law Officers can be downloaded from the UAGO website at www.oag.gov.mm.
Myanmar’s legal history has gone through many cycles, and the laws it relies on are often antiquated and no longer relevant in a modern world. But the principles which underlie due process and fairness in criminal trials exist in their jurisprudence, and the Guidebook will help prosecuting law officers conform their official duties to the best practices and expectations set forth by the Union Attorney General.
During his opening remarks, His Excellency, the Attorney General of the Union U Tun Tun Oo explained that the Fair Trial Guidebook will be “very effective in prosecutorial work, protection of individual rights according to the law, and will increase public confidence in the judicial system” if law officers study and exercise the standards if the Guidebook. In the coming months, the UAGO with support from UNDP, will host a series of state and regional seminars with justice sector stakeholders from government, private lawyers, and civil society to discuss the Fair Trial Guidebook and how it can support national and local efforts to improve the administration of criminal justice.