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Universal Periodic Review of Burma: Deny, Dismiss and Dodge, Military Regime Unwilling to Face up to Massive Human Rights Abuses

By International Federation for Human Rights and Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma and Burma Lawyers' Council  •  January 28, 2011

Geneva, 28 January 2011 – On the occasion of the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in Burma at the UN Human Rights Council on 27 January, FIDH, Altsean-Burma and BLC deplore the military regime’s blanket denial of the serious human rights abuses and the entrenched impunity that prevails in the country. The organisations welcome the engagement by a number of Member States in their dialogue with regime officials. These states raised serious concerns over ongoing human rights violations, including the imprisonment of political prisoners, impunity for violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and abuses perpetrated by members of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces).

The regime’s delegation, led by Dr. Tun Shin, Deputy Attorney General, denied the existence of widespread and systematic human rights abuses despite well documented reports by civil society organisations, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, UN human rights bodies, and diplomats. For example, when questioned about the more than 2,190 people being imprisoned for their peaceful civil and political activities, the delegation claimed all are imprisoned for violating “prevailing laws, not because of their political beliefs.” A number of states expressly recommended the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and called for the representation of all political parties in an inclusive political process to facilitate national reconciliation.

FIDH, Altsean-Burma and the BLC deeply regret that some States failed to address the serious human rights situatio in Burma but instead praised the regime’s orchestrated and tightly controlled ‘road map to democracy’. Despite the human rights aspirations guaranteed in the ASEAN Charter and the founding documents of the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, ASEAN member States failed to highlight, acknowledge or condemn the current harsh human rights and humanitarian situation on the ground. Instead, they expressed support for the sham elections that is designed to perpetuate military control of the country and eliminate accountability for grave human rights violations.

On 31 January 2011, the new national ‘parliament’ will convene its first session and the regime will control over 80% of the total number of seats when those MPs elected through the regime’s proxy party the Union and Solidarity Party (USDP) are combined with those designated by the military – 110 for the lower house and  56 for the upper house.

On the issue of on-going impunity for serious human rights abuses, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, a number of delegations reiterated their support for the call for the establishment of a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious allegations of international crimes committed in Burma. A number of states specifically called for an end to forced labour, torture and recruitment of child soldiers, and recommended that the Burmese regime cooperate with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UN and ASEAN human rights mechanisms.

Based on the regime delegation’s presentation and its responses to Member States, FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said “The military regime has yet again demonstrated clearly its unwillingness to acknowledge and investigate the massive human rights violations that had occurred and continue to occur in Burma; it is now up to the international community to take the necessary steps to end impunity and ensure accountability for past and present crimes.”

Deputy Attorney-General Dr. Tun Shin’s denial of rights abuses is exemplary of the regime’s failure to recognize the systematic and widespread human rights abuses,” said U Thein Oo, Chairman of the BLC. “The international community should ignore the regime’s rhetorical speech and establish a Commission of Inquiry as a crucial step toward ending this culture of impunity in Burma,” he added.

Altsean-Burma Coordinator Debbie Stothard deplored ASEAN states for abetting the Burmese regime’s denial of the situation in Burma. “These denials tell us that there is no intent to stop violations and emphasize the growing urgency for a Commission of Inquiry into serious crimes in Burma,” said Ms Stothard, who is also FIDH Deputy Secretary-General.

Karine Appy + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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