March 10, 2011

Burma Briefing No. 10

In the past two years there has been an increasing trend to look at Burma through the lens of international law, rather than just as a civil liberties or human rights issue. This approach gained momentum in March 2010, when the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma called for a UN Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

Most attention on possible war crimes and crimes against humanity taking place in Burma has focused on attacks and persecution on ethnic minorities, particularly crimes committed against the ethnic Karen, Karenni and Shan in Eastern Burma, and against the Rohingya in Western Burma, and the Chin in the Northwest. This briefing looks at an area which has so far not received much attention, the detention and treatment of political prisoners. This briefing is not intended as a detailed legal analysis, but rather to highlight this issue as one which should also be looked at in the context of international law.

The detention and mistreatment of political prisoners in Burma implicates breaches of Article 7 of the Rome Statute, and as such, would be crimes against humanity. This briefing recommends further research into this issue and for the detention and treatment of political prisoners to be included in the remit of any future UN Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma. It argues that the detention and mistreatment of political prisoners provides yet another justification for the establishment of such an Inquiry.

Burma Briefing No. 10 In the past two years there has been an increasing trend to look at Burma through the lens of international law, rather than just as a civil liberties or human rights issue. This approach gained momentum in March 2010, when the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma called for a UN Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma. Most attention on possible war crimes and crimes against humanity taking place in Burma has focused on attacks and persecution on ethnic minorities, particularly crimes committed against the ethnic Karen, Karenni and Shan in Eastern Burma, and against the Rohingya in Western Burma, and the Chin in the Northwest. This briefing looks at an area which has so far not received much attention, the detention and treatment of political prisoners. This briefing is not intended as a detailed legal analysis, but rather to highlight this issue as one which should also be looked at in the context of international law. The detention and mistreatment of political prisoners in Burma implicates breaches of Article 7 of the Rome Statute, and as such, would be crimes against humanity. This briefing recommends further research into this issue and for the detention and treatment of political prisoners to be included in the remit of any future UN Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma. It argues that the detention and mistreatment of political prisoners provides yet another justification for the establishment of such an Inquiry.

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