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Secretary Clinton Urged to Prioritize Securing An End to Burmese Army’s Crimes against Humanity by 12 Human Rights Organizations and One Individual in the United States

By US Campaign for Burma  •  November 28, 2011

Today the U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB) and 11 other respected human rights organizations and one individual in the United States sent an open letter to Secretary Clinton to strongly urge her to prioritize securing an end to the egregious crimes against humanity the Burmese Army continues to commit against ethnic minority civilians during her trip to Burma scheduled for December 1-2, 2011.

This collective call regarding Secretary Clinton’s trip to Burma is an exceptional example of the necessity for increased attention and action against the Burmese military’s crimes against humanity. Organizations that signed on to the letter include: Citizens for Global Solutions, Connect U.S. Fund, Democracy Coalition Project, Freedom House, Freedom Now, Human Rights First, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Open Society Foundations, Partners Relief & Development, Physicians for Human Rights, United to End Genocide, the U.S. Campaign for Burma and Theodore Piccone of the Brookings Institution who signed on the letter in his personal capacity.

The group stated in the letter to Secretary Clinton, “When you meet with President Thein Sein, you should intensify the consistent calls made by the international community for the Burmese government to (1) immediately release all remaining political prisoners unconditionally; (2) start meaningful political dialogue with democratic opposition and ethnic representatives for real national reconciliation and the creation of democratic systems that will guarantee democracy, human rights, rule of law, independence of judiciary, and ethnic minority rights; and (3) end civil wars peacefully and allow international humanitarian organizations to have unhindered access to the populations affected by civil wars and natural disasters.”

Since Burma’s military regime put on the veneer of civilian government earlier this year, President Thein Sein has also shown an interest in engagement with the United States. In an effort to exhibit his interest in a better relationship with the United States, President Thein Sein agreed to a key issue for the United States by meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi once, releasing a small number of political prisoners and amending the political party registration law to allow former political prisoners to be part of a political party and participate in elections.

The group also urged Secretary Clinton “to call publicly upon the Burmese government to expand these movements towards democratic reform by (1) repealing all laws and policies that allow for the arrest and imprisonment of political prisoners; (2) creating a credible mechanism to investigate the torture and death of political prisoners; (3) working with the Union Election Commission to ensure that the recent electoral law changes are impartially enforced, former political prisoners can fully participate in the political process, and the upcoming by-elections are held in a participatory, inclusive and transparent manner that is monitored by reputable international election observers; and (4) enacting and meaningfully enforcing laws protecting freedom of expression, assembly, and association that go beyond Article 354 of the 2008 Constitution, which subordinates the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association to laws enacted for country security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility or public order and morality.”

Unfortunately, President Thein Sein has not changed the Burmese army’s actions against the country’s ethnic minority civilians. In the past seven months there has been a serious surge in human rights violations committed by the Burmese army, including the largest forced displacement in a decade of over 100,000 new internally displaced persons, renewed armed conflict with 3 separate decades old ethnic ceasefire groups, an increase in the use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labor and the use of civilians as human shields. This is in addition to decades of attacks against ethnic minority civilians resulting in the displacement and destruction of over 3,700 villages.

Partners Relief & Development, one of the signatories of the letter, released a report today from their recent fact-finding trip to Kachin State, Northern Burma that details the Burmese army’s use of torture, extrajudicial killing, the specific targeting of civilians, human shielding, unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, forced labor, forced relocation, displacement, property theft and property destruction. The report can be viewed here.

“Secretary Clinton should use this visit as an opportunity to strengthen Burma’s democracy activists and ethnic minorities and remind the regime of the consequences that will follow their failure to halt crimes against humanity,” said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234 8022

Download Letter to Secretary Clinton here.

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This post is in: Crimes Against Humanity, Press Release

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