March 3, 2011

Burma’s dictatorship has not met key EU demands for reform, and so sanctions must remain in place, according to the findings of a new policy briefing paper published by Burma Campaign UK.

The new briefing paper is published as EU member states debate their joint policy on Burma, which has to be renewed at the end of April. The paper, ‘What next for EU Burma Policy?’, looks at the four main demands set by the EU when it last renewed its Common Position, and finds that none have been met.

The paper also looks at how the European Union should respond to the recent National League for Democracy (NLD) review of Burma sanctions, and the failure of the EU to support the recommendation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, that the UN establish a Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

Some EU governments are supporting a relaxation of EU sanctions on Burma. Germany and Italy in particular, which have strong domestic business lobbies interested in investing in Burma, have been arguing that some sanctions should be relaxed.

However, if the EU were to abide by its own official conclusions from April last year, it is clear there is no justification for relaxing sanctions.

The EU made four key demands to the dictatorship. Summarised, they were; for genuine dialogue, credible free and fair elections, more engagement with the international community to work towards a peaceful transition to democracy, and to end violations of international law. None of these demands were met, and in some instances the situation actually got worse.

The official position is that the EU will; ‘revise, amend or reinforce the measures it has already adopted in light of developments on the ground.’

“Given that human rights abuses and violations of international law have increased, rather than decreased, and that the dictatorship is trying to consolidate, not end its rule, if the EU were to follow its own policy it would be discussing increasing, not decreasing, the sanctions,’ said Zoya Phan, Campaigns Manager at Burma Campaign UK.

The briefing paper also calls on the European Union to engage with the NLD on how sanctions can be modified, as requested in its sanctions policy review. The paper argues that by setting clear benchmarks which must be met before sanctions are lifted, it will not only make better use of those sanctions as a tool for promoting change, but also help end some of the divisions over sanctions within the EU, enabling a focus on other important areas.

The briefing paper also calls on the European Union to announce its support for a UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma. The failure of the EU to support such an Inquiry contributes to the dictatorship having a sense of impunity, which in turn encourages it to continue its abuses.

“Without genuine progress and change in Burma there is no justification for the EU weakening its current sanctions on Burma”, said Zoya Phan. “We want sanctions to be smart and well-targeted, but the EU must engage with the NLD on how any sanctions should be changed, and setting clear benchmarks, such as the release of all political prisoners.”

Download the briefing here.

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710


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