Burma Campaign UK today welcomed the renewal of European Union (EU) sanctions against Burma for a further year, and a call by the European Union for Burma to “end to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.” In March the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma called for a UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
The EU has a joint foreign policy on Burma, known as the Common Position. All 27 EU members are meant to abide by the Common Position, which has to be renewed each April. EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed to maintain existing EU sanctions against Burma.
Key points from EU:
· Sanctions maintained.
· Regime must end violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
· Elections not credible.
· Regime must enter into dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups.
· EU willing to enter into high-level dialogue.
The extension of sanctions will disappoint some European governments and international NGOs. Some have argued for a policy of appeasement towards Burma’s generals, who are guilty of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, calling on the EU to relax sanctions.
Burma’s democracy movement and Burma Campaign UK have argued that relaxing sanctions would be a green light to the generals to increase human rights abuses, help finance increased abuses, and give up potential leverage against the regime. The problem with EU sanctions is that most are not effectively targeted, have not been used as part of coordinated diplomatic efforts, and those sanctions which could be effective are being broken, as there is no monitoring or implementation. EU ministers did not announce any steps to make sure existing sanctions are properly enforced.
“The EU is right to maintain existing sanctions in light of the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “We welcome the EU’s call for the regime to respect international human rights law, but are disappointed that they have not explicitly expressed support for the recommendation of the UN Burma expert that a UN commission of inquiry should be established.”
The fact that the EU has chosen to prioritise in its conclusions the call for dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups is significant. The Burma Campaign UK has been calling on the EU to focus on this rather than continuous efforts to reform the general’s so-called roadmap to democracy, all of which have failed. The UN Security Council, UN General Assembly and UN Secretary General have all said this kind of tri-partite dialogue is the proper mechanism that should be used for solving the problems in Burma.
“We strongly welcome the call for the regime to enter into dialogue with the opposition and ethnic groups,” said Mark Farmaner. “We call on the EU to make this the main focus of diplomatic efforts, rather than trying to tinker with laws relating to fake elections later this year. The EU and UN says this kind of dialogue is the way forward. It is time they started to work to make it happen.”
The EU Council Conclusions can be accessed at:
For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4710