Myanmar Human Rights Commission leads discussion on death penalty moratorium

Lead academic(s)

Professor Jon Yorke, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences

Background to engagement activity

Prof. Yorke worked alongside the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty World-wide (DPWW), which was supporting the Asia Pacific Forum (APF) to review capital punishment in the region’s member states, including Myanmar. Their review showed Myanmar to have a de facto abolitionist position, and set the goal of securing a moratorium.

Engagement activity undertaken

To consider strategies for achieving this goal, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), supported by the APF, organised a workshop in 2017, and DPWW recommended that the MNHRC invite Prof. Yorke to be their International Law Expert.

The Workshop on the Moratorium of the Death Penalty was attended by 33 participants including: Parliamentarians, Senior Government Officials from the President’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs (General Administration Department, Myanmar Police Force and Prison Department), Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, Union Supreme Court, Union Attorney General’s Office, and representatives from civil society organisations, the media and Members of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and its officials.

Knowledge transferred

At the workshop Prof. Yorke provided presentations on international law and capital punishment and an overview of abolitionist arguments. The Workshop recommended that the Myanmar Government consider initiating a moratorium on the application of death penalty, pending its abolition. Prof. Yorke was part of the Drafting Committee which authored the Outcome Statement containing recommendations to the Myanmar government, including that they adopt a moratorium, pending its eventual abolition.

Evidence of impact

Despite the 2015-2017 Rohingya crisis (which has seen the displacement of hundreds of Rohingya people from Myanmar to neighbouring countries), the workshop Outcome Statement recommending a moratorium on the death penalty remains the MNHRC’s policy position on capital punishment.

Subsequently, BCU has produced a Stakeholder Report for the United Nations Myanmar Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which builds upon the proceedings of the Workshop. This report brings together the human rights practice and research being carried out by BCU’s Centre for Human Rights, and gives this important work on abolishing the death penalty in Myanmar a global audience.

Dates of activity