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UN General Assembly Fails To Act On Crimes Against Humanity In Burma

By Burma Campaign UK  •  November 4, 2011

Burma Campaign UK today condemned the European Union for tabling a draft of this year’s UN General Assembly Resolution on Burma which fails to take any action to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country. This is despite the fact that human rights abuses which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity have significantly increased in the past year. The European Union has been under pressure to include the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma in the Resolution. The establishment of such an Inquiry has been recommended by the UN’s own human rights expert on Burma.

The draft Resolution will be the 21st passed by the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly first called on the dictatorship in Burma to respect the Geneva Conventions in 1992. In total, General Assembly Resolutions on Burma have referred to 15 possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. This new Resolution will be the 19th time the General Assembly has called on the government of Burma to hold an investigation into human rights abuses in the country.

“Women and girls are being brutally gang-raped and killed, villages mortar bombed and the number of people forced to flee their homes because of attacks by the Burmese Army has doubled, but the response from the EU is more empty words,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Establishing a Commission of Inquiry would send a signal to the government of Burma that they cannot continue to break international law and get away with it. It could have saved lives. Instead, yet again, the EU failed to act. The EU has to explain why they think this nineteenth request for the government of Burma to investigate its own abuses will be acted upon when the previous eighteen requests have been ignored.”

Despite some small political reforms in Burma, human rights abuses have increased in the past year, as the government has broken ceasefire agreements with armed ethnic political parties. Around 150,000 people are internally displaced due to conflict, as the Burmese Army has deliberately targeted civilians in ethnic states. Of deep concern are the increasing reports of the use of gang-rape by the Burmese Army.

The draft Resolution acknowledges that serious abuses are continuing, stating that the General Assembly: ‘Expresses grave concern about the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar…Expresses grave concern at the continuing practice of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…..Expresses concern about the conditions in prisons and other detention facilities and consistent reports of ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience, including torture, and about the moving of prisoners of conscience to isolated prisons far from their families where they cannot receive regular visits, or food and medicine…Strongly calls upon the Government of Myanmar to take urgent measures to put an end to continuing grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including the targeting of persons based on their belonging to particular ethnic groups, the targeting of civilians as such in military operations, and rape and other forms of sexual violence, and to end impunity for such acts.’ Yet despite acknowledging these serious abuses continue, and that all past requests to end them have been ignored, for the 21st time the General Assembly takes no action to try to prevent such abuses.

“While we welcome this draft Resolution, which highlights the serious ongoing human rights abuses in Burma, it is extremely disappointing that no practical steps are being taken to prevent these abuses,” said Mark Farmaner. “It is also disappointing that the UK and other countries which expressed support for a UN Inquiry failed to turn words into action.”

For more information contact Mark Farmaner on 07941239640.

The draft resolution is available online here.

A Burma Campaign UK briefing paper on UN General Assembly Resolution on Burma is available here.

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This post is in: Crimes Against Humanity, Press Release

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