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PartI

EstablishmentoftheCommissionofInquiry(ILOConNo.29)
{CommissionofInquiryunderarticle26,paragraph4,oftheConstitutioninordertomakeanobjective assessmentofthesituation.268thSession(March1997)} 1.FilingofthecomplaintandappointmentoftheCommission (1)Filingofthecomplaint 1.Byaletterdated20June1996addressedtotheDirectorGeneraloftheILO,25Workers'delegatesto the83rdSessionoftheInternationalLabourConference(June1996)(1)presentedacomplaintunder article26oftheConstitutionagainsttheGovernmentofMyanmarfornonobservanceoftheForced LabourConvention,1930(No.29),whichitratifiedon4March1955andwhichcameintoforcefor Myanmaron4March1956.Thecomplaintstated,inparticular,that: Myanmar'sgrossviolationsoftheConvention[No.29]havebeencriticizedbytheILO'ssupervisory bodiesfor30years.In1995,andagainin1996,theyhavebeenthesubjectofspecialparagraphsinthe reportsoftheCommitteeontheApplicationofConventionsandRecommendations,andthisyear,the GovernmenthasalsobeensingledoutbytheCommitteeforits"continuedfailuretoimplement"the Convention. Inaddition,inNovember1994,theGoverningBodyadoptedthereportoftheCommitteeithad establishedtoexaminetherepresentationmadebytheInternationalConfederationofFreeTrade Unions[ICFTU]againsttheGovernmentofMyanmarforitsfailuretoensureeffectiveobservanceof ConventionNo.29. TheGovernmenthasdemonstrateditsunwillingnesstoactupontherepeatedcallsaddressedtoitby theILO'ssupervisorybodiestoabolishandcancellegislationwhichallowsfortheuseofforcedlabour andtoensurethatforcedlabouriseliminatedinpractice.Inthesecircumstances,theCommitteeon ApplicationshasagainexpresseddeepconcernatthesystematicrecoursetoforcedlabourinMyanmar. Despiteitsprotestationsthatthepowersavailableundertheoffendinglegislation,theVillageAct(1908) andtheTownsAct(1907),havefallenintodisusesince1967andthattheselawsarecurrentlyunder reviewwithaviewtotheirrepeal,theGovernmenthasfailedconspicuouslytoprovidetheinformation requestedofitconcerningconcreteactionforlegislativechange. Indeed,itisclearthatthepracticeofforcedlabourisbecomingmorewidespreadandthatthe authoritiesinMyanmararedirectlyresponsibleforitsincreasinguse,andactivelyinvolvedinits exploitation.

TheICFTUrepresentationpresentedunderarticle24oftheConstitutioninJanuary1993addressedthe particularcaseoftheforcedrecruitmentandabuseofportersbythemilitarywhichwas,atthattime, theprimarycauseofconcern. Sincethen,however,forcedlabourisbeingusedsystematically,onaneverlargerscale,andinan increasingnumberofareasofactivity.Largenumbersofforcedlabourersarenowworkingonrailway, road,construction,andotherinfrastructureprojects,manyofwhicharerelatedtotheGovernment's effortstopromotetourisminMyanmar.Inadditionthemilitaryisengagedintheconfiscationofland fromvillagerswhoarethenforcedtocultivateittothebenefitofthemilitaryappropriators. ThecurrentsituationisthattheGovernmentofMyanmar,farfromactingtoendthepracticeofforced labour,isengagedactivelyinitspromotion,sothatitistodayanendemicabuseaffectinghundredsof thousandsofworkerswhoaresubjectedtothemostextremeformsofexploitation,whichalltoo frequentlyleadstolossoflife. 2.SupplementaryevidencewassubmittedtotheILOinthenameofthecomplainantsbyaletterdated 31October1996andisappendedtothepresentreport.(2) (2)ProvisionsoftheConstitutionoftheInternationalLabourOrganizationrelatingtocomplaints concerningnonobservanceofratifiedConventions 3.TheprocedureunderwhichtheWorkers'delegatesfiledtheircomplaintagainsttheGovernmentof Myanmarissetoutinarticles26to29and31to34oftheILOConstitution,whichreadasfollows: Article26 1.AnyoftheMembersshallhavetherighttofileacomplaintwiththeInternationalLabourOfficeifitis notsatisfiedthatanyotherMemberissecuringtheeffectiveobservanceofanyConventionwhichboth haveratifiedinaccordancewiththeforegoingarticles. 2.TheGoverningBodymay,ifitthinksfit,beforereferringsuchacomplainttoaCommissionofInquiry, ashereinafterprovidedfor,communicatewiththegovernmentinquestioninthemannerdescribedin article24. 3.IftheGoverningBodydoesnotthinkitnecessarytocommunicatethecomplainttothegovernment inquestion,orif,whenithasmadesuchcommunication,nostatementinreplyhasbeenreceived withinareasonabletimewhichtheGoverningBodyconsiderstobesatisfactory,theGoverningBody mayappointaCommissionofInquirytoconsiderthecomplaintandtoreportthereon. 4.TheGoverningBodymayadoptthesameprocedureeitherofitsownmotionoronreceiptofa complaintfromadelegatetotheConference.

5.Whenanymatterarisingoutofarticle25or26isbeingconsideredbytheGoverningBody,the governmentinquestionshall,ifnotalreadyrepresentedthereon,beentitledtosendarepresentativeto takepartintheproceedingsoftheGoverningBodywhilethematterisunderconsideration.Adequate noticeofthedateonwhichthematterwillbeconsideredshallbegiventothegovernmentinquestion. Article27 TheMembersagreethat,intheeventofthereferenceofacomplainttoaCommissionofInquiryunder article26,theywilleach,whetherdirectlyconcernedinthecomplaintornot,placeatthedisposalof theCommissionalltheinformationintheirpossessionwhichbearsuponthesubjectmatterofthe complaint. Article28 WhentheCommissionofInquiryhasfullyconsideredthecomplaint,itshallprepareareportembodying itsfindingsonallquestionsoffactrelevanttodeterminingtheissuebetweenthepartiesandcontaining suchrecommendationsasitmaythinkproperastothestepswhichshouldbetakentomeetthe complaintandthetimewithinwhichtheyshouldbetaken. Article29 1.TheDirectorGeneraloftheInternationalLabourOfficeshallcommunicatethereportofthe CommissionofInquirytotheGoverningBodyandtoeachofthegovernmentsconcernedinthe complaint,andshallcauseittobepublished. 2.EachofthesegovernmentsshallwithinthreemonthsinformtheDirectorGeneraloftheInternational LabourOfficewhetherornotitacceptstherecommendationscontainedinthereportofthe Commission;andifnot,whetheritproposestoreferthecomplainttotheInternationalCourtofJustice. Article31 ThedecisionoftheInternationalCourtofJusticeinregardtoacomplaintormatterwhichhasbeen referredtoitinpursuanceofarticle29shallbefinal. 3

Article32 TheInternationalCourtofJusticemayaffirm,varyorreverseanyofthefindingsorrecommendationsof theCommissionofInquiry,ifany. Article33 IntheeventofanyMemberfailingtocarryoutwithinthetimespecifiedtherecommendations,ifany, containedinthereportoftheCommissionofInquiry,orinthedecisionoftheInternationalCourtof Justice,asthecasemaybe,theGoverningBodymayrecommendtotheConferencesuchactionasit maydeemwiseandexpedienttosecurecompliancetherewith. Article34 ThedefaultinggovernmentmayatanytimeinformtheGoverningBodythatithastakenthesteps necessarytocomplywiththerecommendationsoftheCommissionofInquiryorwiththoseinthe decisionoftheInternationalCourtofJustice,asthecasemaybe,andmayrequestittoconstitutea CommissionofInquirytoverifyitscontention.Inthiscasetheprovisionsofarticles27,28,29,31and32 shallapply,andifthereportoftheCommissionofInquiryorthedecisionoftheInternationalCourtof Justiceisinfavourofthedefaultinggovernment,theGoverningBodyshallforthwithrecommendthe discontinuanceofanyactiontakeninpursuanceofarticle33. (3)SummaryofthemeasurestakenbytheGoverningBodyoftheInternationalLabourOfficefollowing thefilingofthecomplaintandestablishmentoftheCommission 4.Atits267thSession(November1996),theGoverningBodyhadbeforeitareportbyitsOfficers (GB.267/16/2)concerningthesubjectofthecomplaint.Thereportrecalled,interalia,thedatesof ratificationandenteringintoforceoftheForcedLabourConvention,1930(No.29)(hereinafter "ConventionNo.29")forMyanmar.Italsopointedoutthatthe25complainantswere,onthedateof filingthecomplaint,Workers'delegatesoftheircountriestothe83rdSessionoftheInternational LabourConference.Accordingly,theyhadtherighttofileacomplaintunderarticle26,paragraph4,of theConstitution,iftheywerenotsatisfiedthattheGovernmentofMyanmarwassecuringtheeffective observanceofConventionNo.29.Inaddition,thereportindicatedthefollowing: Nodiscussiononthemeritsofthecomplaintisadmissibleatthepresentstage.Itwouldindeedbe inconsistentwiththejudicialnatureoftheprocedureprovidedforinarticle26andthefollowingarticles oftheConstitutionthatthereshouldbeanydiscussionintheGoverningBodyonthemeritsofa complaintuntiltheGoverningBodyhasbeforeitthecontentionsofthegovernmentagainstwhichthe complaintisfiled,togetherwithanobjectiveevaluationofthesecontentionsbyanimpartialbody.Nor wouldsuchdiscussionbeappropriatewhileaproposaltoreferthecomplainttoaCommissionofInquiry ispendingbeforetheGoverningBodyorwhilethecomplaintissubjudicebeforeaCommissionof Inquiry.IfthereistobeaCommissionofInquirywhichitisfortheGoverningBodytodecideunder

article26,paragraph4,oftheConstitutionitiswhentheCommissionofInquiryhasreportedonthe meritsofthecomplaintthattheGoverningBodymaybecalledupontotakeactioninthematter. 5.Atthesamesession,theGoverningBodytookthefollowingdecisions: (a)TheGovernmentofMyanmarshouldberequestedbytheDirectorGeneraltocommunicateits observationsonthecomplaintsoastoreachhimnotlaterthan31January1997. (b)Inaccordancewitharticle26,paragraph5,oftheConstitution,theGoverningBodyshouldinvitethe GovernmentofMyanmartosendarepresentativetotakepartintheproceedingsoftheGoverning Bodyconcerningthismatteratitsfuturesessions.WhensoinvitingtheGovernmentofMyanmar,the DirectorGeneralshouldinformitthattheGoverningBodyintendedtocontinueitsdiscussionofthis caseatits268thSession,whichwastotakeplaceinGenevainMarch1997. 6.Inaletterdated23December1996,theDirectorGeneralinformedtheGovernmentofMyanmarof thedecisionsmentionedabove. 7.Byaletterdated5February1997,thePermanentMissionoftheUnionofMyanmarinGeneva transmittedtheobservationsoftheGovernmentofMyanmaronthecomplaintandthefurther supplementaryevidencesubmitted.Thedocument(withoutitsconfidentialannexes)isappendedtothe presentreport(AppendixII). 8.Atits268thSession(March1997),theGoverningBodyhadbeforeitanotherreportofitsOfficers (GB.268/15/1)whichnotedthat: Contradictionsexistbetweenthefactspresentedintheallegationsandthosesetoutintheobservations oftheGovernmentofMyanmar.Itwould,however,notbeappropriatetoenterintoadiscussionofthe substanceifitisenvisagedtosetupaCommissionofInquiryunderarticle26,paragraph4,ofthe Constitutioninordertomakeanobjectiveassessmentofthesituation.Aswaspointedoutinthereport oftheOfficersoftheGoverningBodyatthelatter's267thSession,itwouldbeincompatiblewiththe judicialnatureoftheprocedurethusinstitutedtoopenupsuchadiscussionbeforetheCommissionof Inquirysubmitsitsconclusions.Inlightoftheforegoing,theGoverningBodydecidedthatthewhole mattershouldbereferred,withoutfurtherdiscussion,toaCommissionofInquirysetupinaccordance witharticle26oftheConstitution.TheGoverningBodyrecalledthatthemembersoftheCommission wouldbenominatedinaccordancewiththesamecriteria,andwouldserveinthesameconditions,as themembersofcommissionspreviouslyappointedunderarticle26oftheConstitution.Theywould serveasindividualsintheirpersonalcapacity,wouldbechosenfortheirimpartiality,integrityand 5

standing.Theywouldundertakebysolemndeclaration,similartothatmadebyjudgesofthe InternationalCourtofJustice,tocarryouttheirtasksandexercisetheirpowersasmembersofthe Commission"honourably,faithfully,impartiallyandconscientiously".TheGoverningBodyaddedthat theCommissionwastoestablishitsownprocedureinaccordancewiththeprovisionsofthe Constitution. 9.Atthesamesession,theGoverningBodydecidedthattheCommissionbecomposedasfollows,as proposedbytheDirectorGeneral(GB.268/14/8): Chairperson:TheRightHonourableSirWilliamDOUGLAS,PC,KCMG(Barbados),formerAmbassador; formerChiefJusticeofBarbados;formerChairman,CommonwealthCaribbeanCouncilofLegal Education;formerChairman,InterAmericanJuridicalCommittee;formerJudgeoftheHighCourtof Jamaica;ChairpersonoftheCommitteeofExpertsontheApplicationofConventionsand Recommendations. Members:Mr.PrafullachandraNatvarlalBHAGWATI(India),formerChiefJusticeofIndia;formerChief JusticeoftheHighCourtofGujarat;formerChairman,LegalAidCommitteeandJudicialReforms Committee,GovernmentofGujarat;formerChairman,CommitteeonJuridicare,GovernmentofIndia; formerChairmanoftheCommitteeappointedbytheGovernmentofIndiaforimplementinglegalaid schemesinthecountry;memberoftheInternationalCommitteeonHumanRightsoftheInternational LawAssociation;memberoftheEditorialCommitteeofReportsoftheCommonwealth;Chairmanofthe NationalCommitteeforSocialandEconomicWelfareoftheGovernmentofIndia;Ombudsmanforthe nationalnewspaperTimesofIndia;ChairmanoftheAdvisoryBoardoftheCentreforIndependenceof JudgesandLawyers,Geneva;VicePresidentofElTaller;ChairmanofthePanelforSocialAuditof TelecomandPostalServicesinIndia;memberoftheUnitedNationsHumanRightsCommittee;member oftheCommitteeofExpertsontheApplicationofConventionsandRecommendations. Ms.RobynA.LAYTON,QC(Australia),BarristeratLaw;Director,NationalRailCorporation;former CommissioneronHealthInsuranceCommission;formerChairpersonoftheAustralianHealthEthics CommitteeoftheNationalHealthandMedicalResearchCouncil;formerHonorarySolicitorforthe SouthAustralianCouncilforCivilLiberties;formerSolicitorfortheCentralAboriginalLandCouncil; formerChairmanoftheSouthAustralianSexDiscriminationBoard;formerJudgeandDeputyPresident oftheSouthAustralianIndustrialCourtandCommission;formerDeputyPresidentoftheFederal AdministrativeAppealsTribunal;memberoftheCommitteeofExpertsontheApplicationof ConventionsandRecommendations. 6

1.TheWorkers'delegateswere:Messrs.E.AboutRisk(Lebanon),C.Agyei(Ghana),K.Ahmed (Pakistan),M.Blondel(France),W.Brett(UnitedKingdom)andU.Edstrm(Sweden),Ms.U.Engelen Kefer(Germany),Messrs.R.Falbr(CzechRepublic),C.Gray(UnitedStates),S.Itoh(Japan),Y.Kara (Israel),A.Lettieri(Italy),I.Mayaki(Niger),S.Mookherjee(India),B.P.Mpangala(UnitedRepublicof Tanzania)andJ.C.Parrot(Canada),Ms.P.O'Donovan(Ireland)andMessrs.F.RamirezLeon (Venezuela),Z.Rampak(Malaysia),I.Sahbani(Tunisia),A.SanchezMadariaga(Mexico),G.Sibanda (Zimbabwe),L.Sombes(Cameroon),L.Trotman(Barbados)andT.Wojcik(Poland). 2.AppendixI. UpdatedbyVC.ApprovedbyRH.Lastupdate:26January2000. Forfurtherinformation,pleasecontacttheOfficialRelationsBranchatTel:+41.22.799.7732,Fax: +41.22.799.8944orbyemail:RELOFF@ilo.org InternationalLabourConference:[Home]