On 24 June 2014, following months of campaigning by activists across the country, the Pyi Htaung Su Hluttaw (the Myanmar Parliament) passed amendments to the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law (the Law).Members of Parliament should be congratulated on their concerted effort to reform the Law in accordance with the desire of the people of Myanmar.
Unfortunately, ARTICLE 19 is concerned that while the intention of many lawmakers involved was to move from a system of prior-authorisation to notification as well as reduce the punishments provided for in the law, instead the reforms introduce greater ambiguity to the legislation and do not bring it into compliance with international human rights law.
International standards are clear that States have a positive obligation to exercise a presumption in favour of holding assemblies as a fundamental right. This right should be guaranteed to all people without discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of nationality or citizenship status. Any restriction to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly should pass the scrutiny of the three-part test, i.e. it must be provided for by law, pursue a legitimate aim, and be necessary and proportionate.
Myanmar has neither signed nor ratified the principal human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Nevertheless, ARTICLE 19 suggests that as Article 364 of the Constitution of Myanmar allows for broad interpretation in terms of its guarantees of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, international standards regarding these rights provide helpful guidance for interpretation.
Following the amendments, the Law still fails to comply with international human rights standards.