September 6, 2011

Media release from the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

High-level discussions on the urgent need for the establishment of a United Nations (UN) Commission of Inquiry (COI) into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, will take place on September 6 in Brussels. The meeting is scheduled ahead of European Union (EU) representatives gathering at the Meeting of the Human Rights Working Group (COHOM) of the European Council to discuss, among other human rights issues, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on Burma for 2011, which must include a provision for a COI if its establishment is to be realised in the near future.

In the context of the widely-held view that such a COI could help reduce human rights abuses in Burma, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the Open Society Foundations, organised the meeting to provide expert opinions on the establishment of a COI to those with responsibility for deciding the stipulations of the UNGA resolution on Burma; EU member states. To this end the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana; together with representatives from Burma Campaign UK; the Burma Lawyers’ Council; the International Federation of Human Rights; and Human Rights Watch will brief EU diplomats.

The experts will summarise the current human rights situation in Burma, taking into account recent political developments there, and explain why a COI is the best way forward for deterring the commission of further crimes – reported as murder, systematic rape, sexual violence, torture, the recruitment of children as soldiers, warrantless detention, widespread forced relocations and forced labour – and ensuring justice for victims. The technicalities of such a COI, including the terms of reference, will also be discussed.

Dr Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association said, ‘The Burmese people have suffered grave human rights violations for more than 20 years. The perpetrators act with immunity in an environment absent of action by the international community.  The United Nations General Assembly should act promptly and decisively to establish a UN commission of enquiry into human rights abuses in Burma.’ He added, ‘A transparent, impartial and independent UN commission of inquiry is an established tool for investigating allegations of international crimes committed by all parties to a conflict.  Establishing a commission for Burma would be a crucial and long overdue step in bringing accountability to Burma.’

Mr Quintana recently stated that, ‘Justice and accountability measures, as well as measures to ensure access to the truth, are fundamental for Myanmar to face its past and current human rights challenges, and to move forward towards national reconciliation.’

The briefing will take place at the Open Society Institute – Brussels, 9-13 Rue d’Idalie, B-1050 Brussels, between 12h00 and 13h30 (local time) under the Chatham House Rule.

The Speakers:
• Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, (via video-link);
• Neil Campbell, Head of EU Policy Development, Open Society Institute-Brussels;
• Mr Gregoire Thery, Permanent Representative to the European Union, International Federation of Human Rights;
• Ms Lotte Leicht, European Union Director, Human Rights Watch;
• Ms Zoya Phan, Campaigns Manager, Burma Campaign UK; and
• Mr U Aung Htoo, Secretary General, Burma Lawyers’ Council.
If you would like to interview any of the speakers after the meeting please contact the moderator, Shirley Pouget of the International Bar Association



For further information please contact:
Romana St. Matthew – Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association
4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street,
London EC4 4AD
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091
Notes for editors

The Chatham House Rule:
“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed”.


The Human Rights Working Group (COHOM) was created under the Council of the European Union in 1987 (with the extension of its mandate in 2003) and is responsible for human rights issues in the EU’s external relations.

It is composed of human rights experts from Member States and the European Commission. Click here to read the text of the mandate.

The Human Rights Working Group meets regularly. The agendas of meetings cover the various aspects of the EU’s human rights policy such as action in international fora, dialogues with third countries, thematic issues and mainstreaming. The agenda always includes standing items on human rights situations of urgent concern. COHOM promotes the systematic inclusion of human rights issues in the agenda of expert’s meetings on thematic issues and at summits between the EU and third countries.

About the International Bar Association
the global voice of the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Its membership includes over 40,000 lawyers and almost 200 bar associations and law societies spanning every continent. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA’s administrative office is in London; regional offices are located in São Paulo, Brazil and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Grouped into two divisions – the Legal Practice Division and the Public and Professional Interest Division – the IBA offers its members access to leading experts and up-to-date information across all areas of legal practice and professional interest. Through a network of specialised committees, the IBA enables an exchange of information and opinions regarding laws, practices and professional responsibilities pertaining to the practice of law globally. High-quality publications and world-class conferences further provide unrivalled professional development and networking opportunities for legal practitioners and professional associates.

The IBA’s Bar Issues Commission provides a forum for IBA member bar associations and law societies to discuss any matter relating to law at an international level.

The IBA’s Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just Rule of Law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

In partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa , the IBA created the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, to promote human rights and the Rule of Law in Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The IBA was instrumental in establishing the International Legal Assistance Consortium in Stockholm, Sweden. This global consortium of non-governmental organisations provides technical legal assistance to post-conflict countries.

Through a grant-funded project, the IBA also maintains an office in The Hague which manages the IBA’s International Criminal Court (ICC) Programme . This office follows the work and proceedings of the ICC, focusing primarily on the fair trial rights of the accused and the manner in which the Rome Statute and other legal documents of the Court are implemented and encourages the legal community to engage with the work of the Court. The programme also produces a dynamic news magazine about the ICC called Equality of Arms Review or EQ which is available on the IBA website.

Contact information:
International Bar Association
4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street,
London EC4 4AD
Tel: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091



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