NEW YORK, Oct. 8, 2009 — The international community should withhold support for Burma’s 2010 elections and not accept the results of the vote unless the government amends the country’s constitution to end impunity for human rights violations, the International Center for Transitional Justice says in a new report.
Civil society and international organizations should meanwhile develop a coordinated approach for gathering information about human rights violations in Burma, to help prepare for eventual prosecutions and other measures dealing with the military government’s long legacy of impunity.
Those are among the key conclusions of Impunity Prolonged, a 40-page report analyzing Burma’s 2008 constitution as well as patterns of abuse. It focuses on three broad categories of human rights violations for which the regime has granted itself impunity: sexual violence, forced labor and the recruitment of child soldiers.
“Burma presents one of the most difficult challenges in the world in relation to making progress toward combating impunity,” the report says. It outlines how the international community could help Burmese civil society systematically collect information about human rights abuses, as an aid to “courts, truth commissions, reparation schemes and vetting programs that may exist in the future.”
The report finds evidence that the Burmese regime responds to threats from the international community, even if the steps have been small: “Many transitions move in fits and starts… . But experience shows that progress in transition often happens through such slow cultural, structural, and institutional changes.”
The report cautions that change “is not inevitable but must be achieved through the proactive defense of human rights and concerted advocacy for measures to combat impunity.”
The International Center for Transitional Justice assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse. The Center works in societies emerging from repressive rule or armed conflict, as well as in established democracies where historical injustices or systemic abuse remain unresolved. For more information, visit www.ictj.org