Burma war crimes probe gets UN backing

(FRANCIS WADE) The Burmese government should be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity, a leading UN rights expert has urged.

It is one of the highest endorsements of a probe into state-sanctioned human rights abuses in Burma, and follows similar calls last year by British MPs and a raft of rights groups.

UN special rapporteur for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, published his recommendations in a 30-page report submitted yesterday to the UN Human Rights Council.

The report states that some actions of the ruling junta “may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Statute of the International Criminal Court”.

 

He added that the lack of accountability surrounding the “gross and systematic” nature of abuses indicated “a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels”.

 

Rights abuses include violations of “the right to life, right to liberty…due process of law, protection of civilians and internally displaced communities [and] prohibition against discrimination”.

 

The report was hailed by rights groups who have regularly complained that the UN has been impotent when it comes to tackling the crisis in Burma.

 

Zoya Phan, international coordinator at Burma Campaign UK, said that Quintana’s comments were “a major step forward”.

 

“Burma’s generals are criminals; the evidence is everywhere to see. It is now time for their crimes to be investigated,” she said, adding that the British government should “publicly state that they support this recommendation”.

 

In December last year, 440 MPs from around the world urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to investigate war crimes in Burma.

 

Both a leading Thai aid group, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), and a panel of leading international jurists, who released the Crimes in Burma report in May last year, have said the situation in eastern Burma is comparable to Darfur.

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