February 15, 2010

The Burma Campaign UK today welcomed a statement from British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis MP that securing a global arms embargo against Burma remains a priority. The British government has led calls for an end to arms sales to Burma, ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.

The Minister stated: “A global arms embargo remains a priority for this Government, and we will continue to press for progress in our bilateral contacts and in relevant multi-lateral fora.”

Ivan Lewis also stated; “The ability of Burma to continue to purchase arms from a wide range of suppliers has helped to reduce their defence and security costs and modernise an army responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses.”

The use of the language ‘widespread and systematic’ is significant, as under the Rome Statute certain human rights abuses must be widespread and systematic to meet the criteria of crimes against humanity, which can result in action by the International Criminal Court.

“The Burma Campaign UK thanks the British Government for its strong lead on building support for a global arms embargo,” said Nang Seng, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “It is incredible that there is still no global arms embargo, especially as the United Nations has said the Burmese Army is committing war crimes. Countries supplying arms to Burma are complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Ivan Lewis also revealed that the British government has raised concerns with Russia about recent reports that they are selling $600million of combat aircraft and arms to Burma’s generals.

The European Union has publicly called for a global arms embargo, but to date the European Commission has taken no steps to build the required global consensus that might persuade the Security Council to act.

The statements from the government came in Written Parliamentary Answers to questions from John Pugh MP and Stephen Crabb MP, both active members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma. The questions and answers can be viewed in full at:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100210/text/100210w0003.htm#10021071000485

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