Mission Statement
"By vigorously opposing all unjust and oppressive laws, and by helping restore the principle of the Rule of Law, the Burma Lawyers' Council aims to contribute to the transformation of Burma where all the citizens enjoy the equal protection of law under the democratic federal constitution which will guarantee fundamentals of human rights."
Objectives of the BLC
Promote and assist in the educating, implementating, restoring, and improving basic human rights, democratic rights, and the rule of law in Burma.
Assist in the drafting and implementating a constitution for Burma, and in associated matters of legal education; and
Participate and cooperate in the emergence of a Civil Society in Burma.
Strenght of the BLC
The majority of the Executive Committee members are experienced in legal field and also key participants in other vital organizations fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma. The BLC is the only organization, which can contribute to the protection of human rights from a legal perspective, in the democratic movement of Burma. The BLC also endeavours to practise collective, consensus based leadership and decision making, which may be a useful model to other less democratically inclined organisations. The academic training that BLC members have undergone gives the group considerable skills in assimilating information, analysis, rationalising situations etc. In addition the group receives considerable legal support within and without Burma.
Target Population
The BLC is Working for the entire grass roots population of Burma (famers, soldiers, workers, civil service administrative staff, the staff and proprietors of small enterprises etc.) with a particular emphasis on the legal needs of women. However practical, strategic considerations meant that the BLC is working through the middle class prolitically progressive population, private employers in large and medium size enterprises, intellectuals and academics, civil servants, political leaders and the second line leaders of the opposition.
Major Activities
Legal research and Documentation
Legal research and documentation are BLC's daily core activities. They are the instruments and basic to all BLC's work within a variety of contexts. Such daily activities include the provision of training on particular issues, input into the formulation of public education campaigns, the provision of advice to a particular group, or the representation of an individual whose rights are being violated by governmental authorities.
A recognised forum for legal issues pertaining to Burma
As the only Burmese Law organization, the BLC is committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to the movement for the restoration of democracy in Burma. Its long-term strategy is being realized by assuming a co-ordinating and leadership role in providing a forum for everyone both within and without Burma who are involved and interested in the legal and human rights aspects, of the struggle for democracy in Burma. The tri-annual journal on "Legal Issues on Burma" remains the primary strategic weapon in informing the international community on a variety of legal issues specifically relating to Burma, such as conflict resolution, transition justice, constitutionalism, rule of law, human rights abuses. Articles for the journals are invited and received from a wide variety of sources including academics, politicians, practising lawyers, and NGO workers.
Burma's Constitution
The Burmese military regime seeks to include unelected members of its military in a system of government, through a constitution it has prepared in a sham National Convention, whereby such unelected military personnel will have a permanent and dominant position in the legislature, executive and judiciary of a future "democratic" government. A second draft of the constitution is now being prepared, based on the consultations and the comments on the first draft. The majority of the members of the constitutional drafting committee of the NCUB, consists of the executive of the BLC. The BLC devotes considerable time and resources to public awareness and education on the constitution-drafting process, to help the people of Burma gain basic constitutional knowledge. The BLC is currently the only organization with a consistent program of education on constitutional knowledge. The constitution is a major topic and is regularly addressed in BLC publications in English, and entirely in the "Journal of Constitutional Affairs" in Burmese, which is also published three times in a year.
Legal Assistance Programs
In the past year BLC has begun to undertake the provision of direct legal assistance to particular individuals and groups, and we have begun planning for systematic analysis of Burma's legal system, its strengths and weaknesses.
Study and Analysis of the Judicial System in Burma
Most commentators on Burma agree that the judicial system is not independent of the regime and is a basic tool used for political oppression, and is corrupt. However, it is rare to see a detailed analysis of particular aspects of the judicial system, that is being used as a tool for oppression or corrupt. This lack of specific information, also unfortunately results in the inability to make specific and concrete challenges to the independence and the state of the judicial system in Burma. The closed environment and resistance to reforms, leaves little understanding of the standard universal norms, procedures, and administrative requirements for a fair, impartial, and effective judicial system. It is hoped that a thorough analysis (based on information on hand) of Burma's judicial system - undertaken with academic rigor, will enable both outside interests and the people themselves to apply pressure on the regime, to reform the specific failings and the weaknesses in the judicial system.
Assisting with Improvements to Ethnic Judicial Systems
In Burma's border region, there are numerous ethnic areas where control is exercised effectively by the ethnic groups' own organizations. The military regime's laws and procedures are not applicable or relevant to the people, who live in these remote areas that are traditionally governed by local laws, that are applied by their own organizations. This is said to be a fairer system, as the military's court system is plagued by corruption administering justice, the local organizations have attempted to resolve many of the legal issues arising within these communities, by applying local laws through their own legal systems.
Advocacy and Strategic Planning
The BLC continues to promote human rights and democracy, as they go hand and hand. Without democracy and the application of democratic practices, the BLC believes that human rights protection can never become a reality. Where authoritarian regimes have been in total control for a long period of time, it will not be easy to immediately change the whole system of a country. In such as situation, the oppressed people should be encouraged to seek ways and means to alleviate their sufferings, in relation to particular issues. This will allow them to move towards democracy step by step, by promoting human rights through the resolving of one issue after another. By sharing knowledge on advocacy and strategic planning amongst the people and the grassroots leaders, the participation of the grassroots people can then be systematically secured.
Background

After the military seized power in Burma in 1962, and after the students' uprising on 7 July, the pro-democracy resistance movement against the military, consisted mainly of students who were committed to the path of armed resistance, and the townspeople of different levels of society, who were also committed to resisting the military- through various means at their disposal. In this society, the lawyers formed an integral part of the pro-democracy resistance movement.

In the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) era (1962-1988), where all private enterprise was nationalised and banned, the youth who sought to avoid employment as government servants in the military led BSPP, planned their alternative private professional employment, which resulted in a number of them studying law, and entering the legal profession.

The Lawyers in private practice, consisted of persons who's sole purpose for entering the legal profession was to secure a livelihood, and those actively sought to oppose the oppressive legal system and its laws, and to represent and assist the people who were suffering adversity, due to the oppressive legal system and its laws. In the legal profession, there were a large number of senior Lawyers who regularly represented the people who were arrested and prosecuted for their dissident activities against the military regime, and in doing so these Lawyers took an active stand against the military regime, and risked their own liberty.

During the BSPP era, Burma Bar Council and all lawyers' associations in the whole country have never at any time cooperated, or supported the activities of the BSPP.

During 1988, emergence of the Four Eights' mass movement, senior Lawyers of Burma Bar Council joined hands with the students and the people and actively took part in the uprising, and issued statements and declarations in support of the movement for democracy. Burma Bar Council's declarations and statements were a driving force for the lawyers all over the country to participate in the peopleís uprising. The lawyers' associations in cities big and small, embraced the declarations and the statements of the Bar Council, joined the students and the people in their respective towns and districts, and actively took part in the uprising.

During the demonstrations, extensive references were made to the chapter "The positive aspects of democracy" in the book "Our Union of Burma" written by Dr Maung Maung in 1959, by the Lawyers' Association- when conducting its campaign of dissent and agitation against Dr Maung Maung, a legal academic who was then the President of Burma and who protected the military rule- resulting in an uprising that spread throughout the nation. Due to the Lawyers' active involvement in the Four Eights Uprising, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) after seizing power arrested and tortured Lawyers throughout the country. Prominent in such arrests and sending reports to the British Broadcasting Corporation, and U Htun Tin, a Supreme Court Senior Lawyer and one of the leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party. Due to the SLORC military junta's substantial pressure, the activities of individual Lawyers and the voice of the Lawyers' associations in Burma were suppressed and silenced. With the aim of reactivating the activities of the Lawyers and Lawyers' Associations and to challenge and fight the military dictatorship before the law, the Burma Lawyers' Council was founded in the revolutionary area.

The Burma Lawyers' Council was established by Lawyers, who have actively opposed the military dictatorship and arrived in the revolutionary areas before and after the Four Eights' Uprising, and also Lawyers who have for various reasons ended up in overseas countries. The current political situation in Burma and overseas created the need for its formation to continue the lawyers' struggle, and from March 1994, a group of Lawyers working together became instrumental in forming the first Executive Council of the Burma Lawyers' Council on 20 October 1994, and a declaration was issued in this regard. It is Councilís aim to contact and communicate overseas Legal associations, and legal academic to obtain their advice, assistance and cooperation. It is also the aim of the Council to assist the democratic forces to the best of its ability in all legal matters, when such requests for assistance are made to the Council.

In Burma under the oppressive military dictatorship system, the unfair and oppressive laws, and the system of justice, the common people are denied their basic rights under the Rule of Law. It is the Burma Lawyers' Council's aim to vigorously oppose all such unfair and oppressive laws, and to restore the basic principles of the Rule of Law. We believe that only when the basic principles of the Rule of Law are put into practice and adhered to; it will assist and support the emergence of a modern, advanced, peaceful, and a new democratic Union in Burma.


Contact Us
Bangkok Office : Burma Lawyers' Council
P.O. Box 144, Mae Sot , TAK 63110, Thailand,
E- Mail : [email protected]
for additional information about our branches click here

Link Topics
Mission Statement
Objectives of the BLC
Background
Target Population
Strength of the BLC
Major Activities
The Founders of the Burma Lawyers' Council
The Executive Board Members
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