3 September 2013

Reform the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law

Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 20 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act came into effect in December 2011. The related by-laws were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and approved by the government in July 2012. However, both the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and related by-laws systematically prevent and restrict public freedom to express dissent and opinion through peaceful assembly and peaceful procession. There are particular reasons to review the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and undertake any necessary reforms accordingly. Local authorities are vested with a wide discretionary power and thus the issuance and denial of protest permit can be decided in an outright discriminatory way. The grounds for denial of protest permit and the period which the denial will remain in effect are not clearly stated (Ch. 4, RPAPP; Ch. 3, by-laws). Therefore, local authorities can reject the application for a protest permit continuously and for an unspecified period of time. As a consequence, fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Burma are violated systematically. The application process for protest permit is also draconian as the chants and biographies of the organiser and speakers along with all other exhaustive list of information need to be provided to local police (Ch. 3, RPAPP; Ch. 2, by-laws). The majority of applications for protest permit since this law and related by-laws came into force have been denied, and in particular cases applications have been denied repeatedly. Eventually, the people of Burma who practice their rights and freedoms in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are arrested and charged under Section 18 of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Punishment for protesting without a permit ranges from a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of Thirty Thousand Kyat or both imprisonment and fine. A maximum sentence of one year imprisonment for protesting without a permit is relatively severe (Section 18, RPAPP). Such practice simply reflects the authoritarian practice of the military junta that disbanded upon 2010 elections. On the

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other hand, a protester can be charged under Section 19 and sentenced to a maximum six months imprisonment or a fine of Ten Thousand Kyat or both. The denial of protest permit continuously amounts to the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms that people of Burma are entitled. This drastic practice of authorities in Burma not only violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the constitution in force, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Constitution 2008 [Article 354(b)]. Those who practice their basic rights and freedoms are not only prosecuted under Section 18 of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law but also other unjust and oppressive laws such as Section 505 (b) of the Penal Code. Over the past few months, dozens of peaceful protesters have been charged under Section 18. Some of them faced multiple charges and sentenced to prison from two to more than eleven years. The nominally civilian government of Thein Sein has continued to practice authoritarian measures. Political and human rights activists have been denied the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial. Therefore, so-called reformist government of Thein Sein violates Article 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since there is no right to a fair trial, rule of law is non-existent in Burma. The number of persons who have been charged under Section 18 is increasing and thus an urgent review and subsequent reform of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law is the top priority of the overall political reform process.

Burma Independence Advocates Building 3, Chiswick Park 566 Chiswick High Road Chiswick, London W4 5YA United Kingdom

Refs: The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association Law Chapter (3) Applying for Permission 4. The citizens or organizations that want to exercise the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful procession and express themselves must apply for the permission at least five days in advance by using the form, including the following information, to the Chief of the Township Police Force. (a) Purpose of the peaceful assembly, the site, the date and time, the topic at the assembly, and the chants; (b) Purpose of the peaceful procession, the route, the date and time, and the chants; (c) The person applying for the permit for peaceful assembly and peaceful procession, and biographies of the leader and the speaker; (d) The schedule of peaceful assembly or peaceful procession and approximate number of attendees;

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(e) If an organization is conducting the peaceful assembly or peaceful procession, record of that organization’s decision or supporting document; (f) If permission is given, the agreement to abide by the rules in this Act as well as the permission.

Chapter (4) Issuance and Denial of Permission 5. When the Chief of the Township Police Force receives an application from a citizen or citizens, or an organization, submitted in accordance with the rules for permission, the permission can be issued or denied with approval from the Chief Administrator of the Township Department of General Administration from the township concerned. However, it cannot be denied when it is not in breach of the security of the State, rule of law, community’s peace and tranquillity, and public morality. 6. The permission or denial of permission must be reported by the Chief of Township Police Force to the Chief of the District Police Force and by the Chief Administrator of the Township Department of General Administration to the Chief Administrator of the District Department of General Administration promptly. 7. Chief of the Township Police Force concerned must do the following: (a) If permission is granted, notify the applicant at least 48 hours in advance of the date and time for the peaceful assembly or peaceful procession; (b) If permission is denied, notify the reason for denial at least 48 hours in advance of the date and time for the peaceful assembly or peaceful procession on the application. 8. The following information must be included in the permission: (a) Date, place, and time of the peaceful assembly; (b) Date, route, and time of the peaceful procession; (c) Number of people given permission to participate in the peaceful assembly and peaceful procession; (d) Name(s) and address (es) of the person or persons given permission to speak; (e) Local rules. 9. Appeals to the denial of permission can be made in the following way: (a) Appeals can be made to the Chief of the Region or State Police Force concerned within seven days of the receipt of the notification of denial. (b) With approval from the Chief Administrator of the Department of Regional or State General Administration, Chief of the Region or State Police Force concerned must make a decision on the appeal, made in accordance with sub-section (a), within 14 days of its receipt. (c) The decision made by Chief of the Region or State Police force, in accordance with subsection (b) is final.

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Chapter (7) Crime and Punishment 18. If there is evidence that a person is guilty of conducting a peaceful assembly or a peaceful procession, he or she must receive a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a maximum fine of thirty thousand kyat or both. 19. If there is evidence that a person violates a rule in Section 8 Sub-section (e) or a rule in Sections 10, 11, and 12, that person must receive a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment or a fine of ten thousand kyat or both.

Regulations (by-laws) relating to the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law Chapter 2 Application for Permission 3. A person who wants to exercise either the right to peaceful assembly or the right to procession or the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful procession must apply for permission at least 5 days in advance; by submitting the designated form 1, 2 or 3 to the concerned Commander of the Township Police Force. 4. If the person who wants to exercise either the right to peaceful assembly or the right to procession or the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful procession, intends to carry out the activity in more than one township area, the permissions must be obtained from all concerned townships in accordance with Article 3 of these by-laws. 5. The particulars of the applicant, the leader and the speaker are to be filled in the designated form 4 which must be attached when the application for permission is made in accordance with Article 3 or 4. 6. The application is to be received by the Commander of Township Police Force. In the absence of the Commander, the duty officer shall receive the application and must rapidly inform the Commander. 7. If the application is not complete with the necessary information, it shall be returned promptly to the applicant with a full explanation provided by the Commander or the assigned officer. 8. If the incomplete application is returned in accordance with Article 7 of these by-laws, the applicant can reapply by submitting the completed form. This reapplication must still be made at least five days in advance of the day of the activity. 9. The Commander of the Township Police Force must present the application to the Governor of the Township by providing personal remarks and opinions. In the absence of the Governor of the Township, one of the officials shall receive the application. The Governor of the Township or the assigned official must speedily decide whether or not the application is granted. 10. If the Governor of the Township decids to deny the application, the reasons for refusal must be sent to the Commander of the Township Police Force. Chapter 3 Issuing of permission, rejection of permission and the application for appeal

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11. If the Governor grants the application, the Commander of the Township Police Force must notify the applicant by issuing the designated forms, either Form 5 for Peaceful Assembly, Form 6 for Peaceful Procession or Form 7 for Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession. 12. If there are any restrictions due to the necessity of the local area in accordance with the article 8, section (e) of the Act, these restrictions must be mentioned in the notice of grant which is to be issued in accordance with the article 11. 13. In order to establish the restrictions in the grant due to the necessity of the local area in accordance with the article 8 section (e) of the Act, the Commander of Township Police Force must prepare to draw up the restrictions in advance by seeking the opinions from the Governor of Township and present the suggested restrictions to the Divisional or State-level Police Commander through the District-level Police Commander. 14. When the Divisional or State-level Police Commander receives the suggested restrictions in accordance with the article 13 of the by-laws, the approval must be obtained from Divisional or State-level Governor and the Commander of Township Police Force concerned must be informed. 15. If the application for, either peaceful assembly or peaceful procession or peaceful assembly and procession is denied, the refusal notice must use the designated form number 8 and the concrete reason of refusal must be stated. 16. The application should not be denied unless the security of the State, rule of law, public tranquillity and the existing laws protecting the public are to be breached. 17. The applicant who is not granted permission is given the right to appeal and the appeal must be submitted to the Divisional or State-level Police Commander concerned within 7 days of receiving the refusal notice. 18. When the Divisional or State-level Police Commander receives the appeal application form, the decision whether the refusal notice issued by the Commander of Township Police Force is granted or dismissed is to be determined after obtaining the approval from the Divisional or State-level Governor. 19. If the appeal is granted, the applicant must be notified by the designated form 9 and if the appeal is dismissed, the applicant must be notified by the designated form 10. 20. When the designated form 9 is issued, the applicant shall inform the Commander of the Township Police Force which day the activity, either peaceful assembly or peaceful procession or peaceful assembly and peaceful assembly and procession is scheduled for. 21. The notice of permission must mention the complete address if the permitted place is inside a building and the notice must mention the detailed description of the area if the permitted place is outside. 22. The precise route for peaceful procession must be described in permission notice in which the conditions to be followed also must be mentioned so as not to obstruct the traffic and the private and business properties located along the route. 23. If the permission is granted for peaceful assembly and peaceful procession, the notice must mention permitted place and route in accordance with Article 20 and 21.

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