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Human Rights Activists Laud UN’s Recognition of Burmese Junta’s Systematic Use of Sexual Violence against Ethnic Women, Impunity (click to view PDF)

Group Demands Action from UN Security Council to Stop Crimes Against Humanity

For Immediate Release
November 18th, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) A leading human rights group today applauded a prominent United Nations Committee’s concluding observations that recognize the Burmese junta’s systematic use of sexual violence, including rape against ethnic minority women, as well as its accompanying system of impunity.

Today, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the enforcement body for CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women) published its report about Burma online. The report, dated November 7, 2008, represents the conclusions of CEDAW’s 42nd session. The report examined the Burmese military regime’s compliance with CEDAW, which the regime ratified on July 22, 1997.

The Committee condemned Burma’s military regime for using sexual violence in its scorched-earth war on Burma’s ethnic minorities, stating that “The Committee expresses its deep concern at the high prevalence of sexual and other forms of violence, including rape, perpetrated by members of the armed forces against rural ethnic women, including, inter alia, the Shan, Mon, Karen, Palaung, and Chin. The Committee is also concerned at the apparent impunity of the perpetrators of such violence, and at reports of threats, intimidation and punishment of the victims. The Committee regrets the lack of information on mechanisms and remedies available to victims of sexual violence as well as measures to bring perpetrators to justice.”

The Committee also addressed violence against women in Burma, stating that “the Committee
expresses concern at the high prevalence of violence against women and girls, such as widespread … sexual violence, including rape. The Committee is also concerned that such violence appears to be socially legitimized and accompanied by a culture of silence and impunity, that cases of violence are thus underreported and that those that are reported are settled out of court.”

Burma’s military regime continues committing crimes against humanity in its ethnic cleansing campaign against Burma’s ethnic minorities. In just the last two weeks, the junta destroyed 12 ethnic minority villages in Eastern Burma, driving an additional 2,000 people from their homes.The junta’s scorched-earth ethnic cleansing campaign has destroyed over 3,300 villages and forced over 1 million people to flee from their homes as refugees along Thai-Burma border over the past 10 years. An additional 1/2 million ethnic minority villagers are hiding in jungles and mountains and struggling to survive without adequate food, shelter and medicine as internally displaced persons. While activists commend the Committee for its recognition of the Burmese junta’s crimes against humanity and shedding light on its system of impunity for crimes against humanity, they also note the body’s inability to hold the regime accountable for its crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Burmese junta has ignored all previous Committee recommendations.

Jennifer Quigley, Advocacy Coordinator of the U.S. Campaign for Burma said, “Since 1992,
recommendations to stop human rights violations in Burma, made by the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council were simply ignored by the Burmese junta, as these recommendations did not come along with enforcement action.” Added Quigley, “We urge the UN Security Council to take serious action against the regime to halt crimes against humanity committed by Burma’s military regime.”

Note: The report “Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Myanmar”, CEDAW/C/MMR/CO/3, 7 November 2008, can be found here.