Burma on Monday condemned a UN expert’s finding that human rights violations in the Southeast Asian country may amount to crimes against humanity and could warrant a UN inquiry.
“We strongly condemn and reject these recommendations and the report as a whole,” Burma envoy Wunna Maung Lwin told the Human Rights Council, referring to a report by the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights in Burma.
Pointing to paragraphs referring to possible crimes against humanity which could prompt an UN inquiry, Burma’s ambassador in Geneva said such recommendations “violate the right of a sovereign state”.
He also charged that the report to the council contained “unfounded allegations” from “unverifiable sources” and that the rapporteur, Tomas Quintana, had referred to issues which fell outside his mandate.
“The deliberate intention of putting allegations in the report is to draw his own conclusion and thereby recommending” the UN inquiry, alleged the ambassador.
“Never in the history of the Human Rights Council had such line of action been warranted on the situation of human rights in the particular country. This will set a dangerous precedent for all the developing countries,” he added.
Quintana noted in his report that “the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Quintana, who visited the Southeast Asian country in February, said the “mere existence of this possibility” requires the Burma government to investigate the allegations.
However, the ruling junta has failed to remedy abuses such as the detention of political prisoners, recruitment of child soldiers and discrimination against the Muslim minority in the northern Rakhine state, he said.
It had also not addressed the deprivation of the population’s basic rights to food, shelter, health and education, he said.
“Given this lack of accountability, UN institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes,” his report said.
Speaking to the council on Monday, Quintana noted that with elections to be held this year, “Burma is at a critical moment in its history.”
However, the junta had not seized the opportunity to address rights abuses and move towards democracy, he said.
“I call upon the international community to take stronger steps with regards to accountability.
“There are many alternatives, one of those is to establish a commission of inquiry under the mandate of the UN agencies,” Quintana reiterated to journalists shortly after the hearing.