IBJ has been working to strengthen access to justice in Myanmar since 2012. To do so, IBJ has been developing its partnerships and training materials for justice sector stakeholders and Myanmar lawyers. In 2012, IBJ published 12 criminal defense eLearning modules for Myanmar lawyers. This online training culminated in two back-to-back regional training events hosted out of the Singapore Justice Training Centre in 2013: The Regional Legal Aid Forum and the Legal Aid Systems Training for Myanmar. The trainings were supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Law Society of Singapore, British High Commission in Singapore, Clifford Chance, Hogan Lovells, Rajah and Tan and Singtel.
The Regional Legal Aid Forum brought together 80 participants and 17 speakers from Myanmar, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore to discuss Myanmar’s legal development, legal aid systems across the Asia-Pacific region, and promote pro bono work and corporate engagement. The Legal Aid Systems Training for Myanmar was attended by 17 senior government officials and lawyers and advanced efforts to establish legal aid in Myanmar. The Myanmar government delegation comprised officials from the Attorney General’s Office, the Supreme Court, the Police Force, and lawyers from the Myanmar Legal Aid Network. IBJ has continued to foster relationships with the government and the local community members across Myanmar including the Attorney General of the Union of Myanmar, the Supreme Court of the Union, Chief of the Police and police force, Myanmar Legal Aid Network, Justice for All and U Kyaw Myint Law Firm.
Since then, IBJ has continued to foster relationships with local community members across Myanmar in an effort of increasing systematic early access to a lawyer and improving the development of legal aid. In 2017, IBJ will open 4 Justice Centres, 2 which were opened in July. In partnership with MyJustice, IBJ has opened the Mandalay Justice Centre and the Taunggyi Justice Centre, as well as its National Head Quarters in Mandalay. The program will build over the coming months to include a Taungoo Justice Centre and a Hpa-An Justice Centre as well as additional satellite offices. Each office is equipped with highly skilled senior lawyer, junior lawyers and paralegals that provide free legal advice and representation for the criminally accused who are vulnerable or marginalized. Regional senior representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, the judiciary, the police and prisons, local lawyers, paralegals, Civil Society Organisations and human rights organisations, have all pledged support for the new Justice Centres.
At the beginning of July 2017, IBJ launched its Management and Essentials Training to train IBJ’s Justice Centre staff on donor management practices and compliance. At the end of July IBJ will host a National Criminal Defence and Legal Aid Training program to strengthen the practical and theoretical skills related to different stages of a judicial proceeding, from pre-trial to the closing submission. IBJ has engaged internationally renowned trainers to facilitate and train over 120 local Myanmar lawyers at this three-day event. Following the training, a Myanmar Defenders Practice Manual will be prepared and distributed as a reference and guide for lawyers across the country. The manual will encompass the rights of the accused, rights of the defenders, trial skills, defense strategy, client counseling best practices, and is based on Myanmar law. IBJ’s holistic training program approach emphasizes not only practical skills, but also community building and commitment to pro bono services. The training will foster a sense of community and commitment to the legal profession among the participants, as well as increase their practical skills. IBJ will provide 16 Regional Myanmar Defender Training Workshops as well as 40 Defender Mentoring Clinics over the two-year program.
Finally, IBJ will host 180 Know Your Rights events to generate legal awareness among the communities it is serving. Each event will allow community members to raise their concerns, understand their rights and responsibilities under the law and to learn about how they can access IBJ and legal aid. With the distribution of over 12,000 legal awareness posters and pamphlets IBJ intends to empower families and communities to protect and promote their own legal rights.
Through its partnership with MyJustice, IBJ will increase access to justice and promote sustainable legal development for the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in Myanmar by the end of the two-year program. IBJ’s approach and My Justice’s resources together will promote sustainable access to legal aid services, work towards eliminating the use of torture and provide a valuable opportunity to participate in justice sector reform in Myanmar.
IBJ’s Justice Centers are supported through funding from the MyJustice grant being implemented by the British Council and funded by the European Union.