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Parliament lines up new powers of authority

Burma’s parliament has agreed to the creation of a new top court as the latest ingredient of an overhaul of the country’s administrative and judicial systems.

Billed in the 2008 constitution as the “court of final appeal” – effectively the country’s top judicial authority – the Supreme Court of the Union was confirmed this morning in state media.

President Thein Sein, who was elected to office last month, has called for seven judges to reside over it, although he is yet to choose nominees.

Also in the constitution is a clause stating that the Chief Justice and all judges must be people “who [are], in the opinion of the President…eminent jurist[s]”, with little clarification of what that criteria involves.

Burmese courts are regularly accused of lacking independence from the ruling junta, particularly in cases involving opposition groups and individuals. Judgements made at the Supreme Court “have no right of appeal”, the constitution adds.

Thein Sein also proposed earlier this week to reform the supreme election authority, the Union Election Commission (UEC), as well as making headway on creating the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union.

The UEC’s former head, Thein Soe, was elected “unanimously” to chair the Tribunal after being nominated by the President, said Khin Shwe, a parliamentary representative for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The USDP is headed by Thein Sein and occupies around 80 percent of seats across Burma’s three parliaments, having won a landslide victory in the November 2010 elections.


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