Despite far-reaching political and economic reforms over the past five years, Burma’s judiciary remains one of the country’s most corrupt institutions, according to a report tabled in the Lower House on Tuesday.

The Judicial and Legal Affairs Complaints and Grievances Investigation Committee, which investigated the country’s legal system over the five-year term of the Thein Sein government, confirmed the existence of a “chain of bribery” in the judiciary, with judges at different levels taking instructions from their superiors and links between supervisory legal staff that often affects the outcome of criminal and civil cases.

Tin Htwe, a member of the committee, said that a patronage network kept junior judges under the sway of their senior colleagues at the Supreme, state and divisional court levels.

“The president, the Lower House and the media have pointed this out,” he said. “The judicial system should be cleaner, but progress is very slow.”

Corruption and bribery are a common feature of most civil cases in Burma, the committee said, with lawyers, court staff and even messages in charge of dispatching summons notices implicated.

The committee also noted the constitutional powers of the president to appoint the Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court of the Union, allowing the government to exert influence over the judiciary.

“If you turn a blind eye to the law and are only interested in winning a lawsuit, acting as a broker [instead of an officer of the law], the judicial sector will only get worse and it will be very difficult to achieve rule of law,” Tin Htwe said.

The parliamentary committee of 15 lawmakers was formed in September 2011. From July 1, 2012 to Nov. 18 this year, the committee received 12,360 complaints about judicial conduct, referring 1,485 of them directly to the courts and departments named in the complaints. The committee claims to have settled 1,071 of those complaints referred on to other authorities.

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