UN Special Rapporteur calls UN institutions to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma (click to view PDF)

First ever meaningful statement by an UN senior official in 20 years of UN involvement in Burma

U.S. Campaign for Burma- Press Release
March 11, 2010
Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234 8022

Full Report of UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana is attached.

(Washington, DC and New York) The United States Campaign for Burma, a leading coalition of Burmese activists in exile and American human rights campaigners working to promote freedom, justice and democracy in a Southeast Asian country of Burma, today wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the call made by UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, to the United Nations institutions “to consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes”[1] in Burma, also known as Myanmar. Mr. Quintana made this call in his report to the current 13th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is being held in Geneva from March 1st to 26th, 2010.

In his 30-page report to the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur who visited Burma recently from February 15 to 19, 2010, touches all issues related to human rights violations by the regime, such as incarceration of over 2,200 political prisoners, severe conditions at detention centers, lack of due process of law, lack of freedom of expression, assembly, and association, serious flaws in the regime’s self-created constitution, attacks against civilians in conflict areas, recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, especially the Muslim population, lack of sufficient spending on health and education, ignorance of food crises in Chin States and other areas, and spread of HIV/AIDS among the general population.

The Special Rapporteur concludes that “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”. [2] Mr. Quintana recommends 
that “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 Statue of the International Criminal Court.”[3]
“I am very much encouraged by the recommendation made by Mr. Quintana”, said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “This is the first time in the nearly 20 years of UN involvement in my country that an UN official made a credible, meaningful and important recommendation to help transform the situation in Burma. I hope the UN Security Council and other UN institutions will act accordingly to set up a commission of inquiry, suggested by the Special Rapporteur without further delay. This is the time for action”, continues Aung Din.

Burma’s human rights and democracy movement has been calling for many years on the United Nations and the international community to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, conducted by the regime with impunity. Burma’s military regime is among the world’s most brutal dictators, locking up over 2,200 political prisoners while carrying out a scorched-earth war on ethnic minority civilians. A recent report, entitled “Crimes in Burma”, by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Law Clinic found that the UN system has well documented compelling evidence that the regime is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity under a climate of impunity, without taking any action. Mr. Quintana’s predecessor, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, penned an opinion piece in the New York Times calling on the UN Security Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry that would investigate crimes against humanity in Burma. [See: “End Burma’s System of Impunity”, New York Times, May 27th, 2009. Pinheiro stated: “The Security Council took similar steps with regard to Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The situation in Myanmar is equally as critical.”

[1] Progress report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, A/HRC/13/48, 5 March, page 30, item number 122
[2] Id, Page 29 and 30, item number 121
[3] Id, Page 30, item number 121