Burma: Pressure on EU for an international inquiry into war crimes

Source: Mizzima

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and NGOs representatives, including Mr U Aung Htoo, Secretary General of the Burma Lawyers’ Council (focal point of Social Watch), discussed the call for a UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) into war crimes in that country with European Union (EU) diplomats ahead of a European Council meeting on human rights in Brussels on Monday.

The institute met the diplomats on Tuesday with the aim to discuss the urgent need for the establishment of an internationally sponsored investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, according to a press release.

United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, together with representatives from Burma Campaign UK; the Burma Lawyers’ Council and the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch briefed EU diplomats.

The meeting was convened ahead of a EU representatives gathering at the Meeting of the Human Rights Working Group of the European Council to discuss, among other human rights issues, the UN General Assembly resolution on Burma for 2011, which must include a provision for a COI if its establishment is to be realized in the near future, according to the press release.

The experts will summarize the current human rights situation in Burma, taking into account recent political developments there, and explain why a COI is the best way forward for deterring further crimes––reported as murder, systematic rape, sexual violence, torture, the recruitment of children as soldiers, warrantless detention, widespread forced relocations and forced labour ––and ensuring justice for victims.

The technicalities of such a COI, including the terms of reference, will also be discussed, according to the institute.

“The Burmese people have suffered grave human rights violations for more than 20 years. The perpetrators act with immunity in an environment absent of action by the international community. The United Nations General Assembly should act promptly and decisively to establish a UN COI into human rights abuses in Burma,” said Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.

“A transparent, impartial and independent UN commission of inquiry is an established tool for investigating allegations of international crimes committed by all parties to a conflict,” he said. “Establishing a commission for Burma would be a crucial and long overdue step in bringing accountability to Burma.”