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Activists Urge Governments to Act on Rape, Crimes in Burma  at Upcoming United Nations Meetings (click to view PDF)

Using Rape as a Weapon of War Is Crime against Humanity

U.S. Campaign for Burma
September 23rd, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum, (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC and New York) A leading United States-based human rights organization today urged governments to press for action to end the Burmese military regime’s use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as other crimes against humanity, in meetings scheduled at the United Nations next week.

“Several bodies at the UN have documented the Burmese regime’s use of rape and other crimes against humanity, but to date no action has been taken by the international community,” said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “The upcoming meetings at the United Nations are the perfect opportunity to take action.”

The Washington Times reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will chair a special UN Security Council meeting on sexual violence at the end of this month, stating that Secretary Clinton, speaking of rape victims, said “These are crimes against humanity. They don’t just harm a single individual, or a single family, or village or group. They shred the fabric that weaves us together as human beings. This criminal outrage against women must be stopped.” Clinton recently visited the Democratic Republic of Congo where she met with survivors of military-sponsored rape.

The Security Council meeting on September 30th will review implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1820, which was adopted in June 2008 and named sexual violence as a threat to international peace and security. A follow-up resolution is being considered at the Security Council to strengthen implementation of 1820.

However, it is unclear whether the discussion will focus exclusively on rape and sexual violence in Africa or if Council members will call attention to the widespread and systematic use of rape as a weapon of war in Burma as well. Activists hope that Secretary Clinton and other international leaders will use the UN venue to highlight the plight of ethnic women and girls in Burma, who are victims of sexual violence by Burma’s military regime.

Nearly all relevant bodies and experts in United Nations have reported on widespread and systematic rape and sexual violence perpetrated by the military regime in Burma under a climate of impunity. These include:

1) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon;
2) UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
3) UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights in Burma
4) UN General Assembly;
5) UN Commission on Human Rights (now Human Rights Council);
6) UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women;
7) UN Special Rapportuer on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment

Despite repeated and consistent verbal condemnations by UN officials and resolutions since 2002, the rapes and sexual violence have continued with impunity in Burma. Previous cases, cited by several United Nations Special Rapporteurs, include those such as:

“Ms. Naang Khin, aged 22, and her sister, Ms. Naang Lam, aged 19, were reportedly raped by a patrol of SPDC troops from Lai-Kha-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 515 on 16th October 2003, when they were reaping rice at their farm in Wan Zing village tract (in Shan State). Their father was tied up to a tree. Afterwards, the two sisters were taken to a forest by the troops. Their dead bodies were found by villagers some days later dumped in a hole.”

A November 2008 report by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women cited the continuance of such rapes by soldiers of the Burmese military regime, stating that “[CEDAW] expresses its deep concern at the high prevalence of sexual and others forms of violence, including rape, perpetrated by members of the armed forces against rural ethnic women.” The Committee added that there had been no justice for victims, expressing its concern at “the apparent impunity of the perpetrators of such violence… [and regrets] the lack of information on mechanisms and remedies available to victims of sexual violence as well as measures to bring perpetrators to justice.”

In 2009, in yet another of many rapes, Burmese military commander Khin Maung Hsit raped two young women in Karen State, ordering them to perform massages on him before telling them to strip their clothing so he could rape them.

The UN Torture Rapporteur, yet another UN expert, adds that “The [Burmese] authorities sanction violence against women and girls committed by military officers, including torture, inter alia, as a means of terrorizing and subjugating the population, particularly those in the Shan state.” The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma has called the rapes “particularly alarming,” and indicated that he had received reports of “widespread and systematic” abuses — key language in establishing the existence of crimes against humanity.

“The United Nations already has all the information it needs to include Burma in its quest to implement Security Council Resolution 1820,” added Aung Din. “The UN knows this is happening. Now, the question is, will governments speak out and ask the Security Council to take action on Burma or continue to remain silent?”