“The report A/HRC/52/21 states that the MNHRC had been ‘subsumed under military control, thus eliminating any element of independence and credibility’. Various third-party submissions before the SCA also indicate that the MNHRC remains under the control of the State Administrative Council and has been ‘condoning and abetting’ the activities of the military government. The SCA acknowledges the responses provided by the MNHRC during its interview; including that article 24 of the MNHRC Enabling Law empowers it to act independently, and that during the state of emergency the MNHRC has sent many recommendations to the government and undertaken various human rights promotion activities, including lectures. However, the SCA is not satisfied that these activities demonstrate that the MNHRC is continuing to operate independently in practice.
The SCA notes with deep concern a public statement of the MNHRC issued on 7 January 2023, describing the actions of the President of the State Administration Council in releasing and reducing the sentences of prisoners as ‘humanitarian’ and an indication of the ‘goodwill of the government’. These comments were made despite reports of torture, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, targeting of civilians by the military, and mistreatment of prisoners taking place across Myanmar, according to the report A/HRC/52/21and third-party submissions received by the SCA. The SCA considers that this message of endorsement from the MNHRC, coupled with the absence of public positions on the widespread violations allegedly taking place across the country, provides evidence that the MNHRC is operating in a manner that seriously compromises its independence.
The SCA also notes reports that the MNHRC is not cooperating with civil society organizations. During its interview with the SCA, the MNHRC reported that it was engaging actively with civil society organizations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and is willing to continue such engagement when it becomes feasible. Third-party submissions lodged with the SCA illustrate a significant lack of trust and confidence in the MNHRC among many civil society organizations working in and on Myanmar. The SCA considers the degree of civil society disengagement from the MNHRC as evidence that its independence has been compromised.
The SCA highlights that regular and constructive engagement with all relevant stakeholders is essential for NHRIs to fulfil their mandates effectively. NHRIs should develop, formalize, and maintain working relationships, as appropriate, with other domestic institutions established for the promotion and protection of human rights, including sub-national statutory human rights institutions, thematic institutions, as well as civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The SCA reiterates the fundamental requirement of the Paris Principles that an NHRI is, and is perceived to be, able to operate independent of government interference.
The SCA refers to Paris Principles A.3, B.1, C(f) and C(g) and to its General Observations 1.5 on ‘Cooperation with other human rights bodies’.”