March 8, 2013

British government receiving; ‘disturbing reports of the use of sexual violence by the military in Burma.’

On International Women’s Day, Burma Campaign UK is calling on members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to ensure that the Council continues to investigate serious human rights abuses in Burma, including sexual violence. There have been moves by some countries not to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, and for Burma to be downgraded from agenda Item 4; ‘Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention’, to Item 10, ‘Technical assistance and capacity building.’

UN Human Rights Council members will discuss Burma on Monday 11th March.

The moves come just one week after a British Foreign Office Minister, Baroness Warsi, stated: “We continue to receive disturbing reports of the use of sexual violence by the military in Burma. We are concerned that the Burmese authorities have done little to investigate.” The statement came in an answer to a question in the British Parliament on 26th February 2013.

“Since Thein Sein became President, we have received more, not fewer, reports of rape and sexual violence by the Burmese Army,” said Zoya Phan, Campaigns Manager at Burma Campaign UK. “The government of Burma continues to either ignore or deny its forces are committing sexual violence, instead of investigating and stopping the attacks. If Human Rights Council members end the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, they will be helping the Burmese government to cover up rape and other abuses. In their own countries if they helped a rapist get away with their crime that would also be a crime. There are double standards here and women in Burma are being left to pay the price.”

Numerous cases of rape and sexual violence by government forces in the past two years have been documented in Shan State, Rakhine State and Kachin State. Reports are available here.

“It is not just naive but also criminally negligent to think the issue of rape and sexual violence in Burma can be addressed internally without international involvement,” said Zoya Phan. “Thein Sein has presided over an increase of sexual violence by government forces and has taken no action. He has a track record of allowing his soldiers to commit rape. When he was a commander in Shan State in the 1990s, the Shan Women’s Action Network documented 45 cases of rape by soldiers under his command.”

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