March 11, 2010

The Burma Campaign UK today warmly welcomed a recommendation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, that the UN consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

The unprecedented recommendation came in an advance unedited version of his report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, which has been published on their website.

The Special Rapporteur report stated that the ‘gross and systematic’ nature of the abuses and the lack of action to stop them indicated; ‘a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels.’

It further states; ‘According to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.’ … ‘UN institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes.’

The Burma Campaign UK and many other NGOs and democracy activists from Burma have been calling on the UN to establish a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity. The calls have been backed by former Special Rapporteurs on Burma, a report by Harvard Law School, and many others, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In the UK 176 MPs have signed a Parliamentary motion calling on the British government to support the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry.

“The Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for a UN inquiry into human rights abuses is a major step forward,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “It is now time for the British government to publicly state that they support this recommendation, and back the UN setting up an Inquiry.

So far the British government has refused to say that they support the UN establishing a Commission of Inquiry, arguing that there is not enough support at the UN Security Council. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as unless one country supports a position and starts working to build support for it, there never will be agreement. In addition, as the Special Rapporteur has indicated, the Inquiry does not have to be set up by the Security Council.

“Burma’s generals are criminals, the evidence is everywhere to see, it is now time for their crimes to be investigated,” said Zoya Phan.

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710

The advanced unedited version is available at:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-48.pdf

Key relevant sections follow:

120. As the Special Rapporteur stated in previous reports, there is a pattern of gross   and systematic violation of human rights which has been in place for many years and still continues. The human rights that are part of this pattern are broad ranging and include the right to life, right to liberty, right to personal integrity, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, right to judicial remedy, due process of law, right to nationality, protection of civilians and internally displaced communities, prohibition against discrimination, among others.

121. Given the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations in Myanmar over a period of many years, and the lack of accountability, there is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels. According to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

122. The mere existence of this possibility obliges the Government of Myanmar to take prompt and effective measures to investigate these facts. There have clearly been cases where it has been necessary to establish responsibility, but this has not been done. Given this lack of accountability, UN institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes. At this particular stage in Myanmar’s history, the state faces this critical assignment which must be addressed by this Government and by a newly elected Government as well.
57. The Special Rapporteur has previously noted the problem of impunity in Myanmar, and he has called for prompt measures to establish accountability and responsibility with regard to widespread and systematic human rights abuses. The Constitution contains one article in Chapter XIV on “Transitory Provisions” which could be seen to enshrine impunity through permanent amnesties for crimes committed by military leaders and civilian personnel and requires clarification. Article 445 states that “no proceeding shall be instituted against the aid Councils (SLORC, SPDC) or any member thereof or any member of the Government, in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”

 


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