December 28, 2010

The United Nations General Assembly has passed its 20th resolution on Burma, issuing what could be interpreted as a final warning regarding an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

The UN General Assembly first called on the dictatorship in Burma to respect the Geneva Conventions in 1992. In total, General Assembly Resolutions on Burma have referred to 15 possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The new 2010 Resolution; ‘Expresses grave concern at the continuing practice of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and urges the Government of Myanmar to undertake without further delay a full, transparent, effective, impartial and independent investigation into all reports of human rights violations, and to bring to justice those responsible in order to end impunity for violations of human rights, and, regretting that previous calls to that effect have not been heeded, calls on the Government to do so as a matter of priority and, if necessary, drawing on the assistance of the United Nations.’

This is the 18th time the General Assembly has called for an investigation into human rights abuses in Burma. However, the language has been strengthened, specifically referring to the fact that previous requests for investigations have been ignored, and also calling on the Burmese government to undertake investigations ‘without further delay’ and ‘as a matter of priority’.

In the context of the recommendation in March 2010 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, that the UN establish a Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, this change of language is significant, and could be interpreted as a final warning to the dictatorship.

The Resolution, originally drafted by the European Union, was voted on in the full General Assembly, following its approval by the Third Committee in mid November.

“The UN General Assembly cannot credibly keep expressing concern about human rights abuses which break international law, and keep calling on the Burmese government to investigate these abuses, but take no further action,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “This Resolution must be the final warning. The 2011 Resolution must establish a Commission of Inquiry, if no other UN body has done so by then.”

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710


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