Human Rights ‘Deteriorating’ in Burma: HRW

Human Rights 'Deteriorating' in Burma: HRW

(Irrawaddy) Burma’s human rights record continued to deteriorate in 2009 ahead of a scheduled elections in 2010, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In its 612-page World Report 2010, the New York-based NGO said, “The Burmese military junta systematically denies citizens basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, association and assembly.”

Dozens of prominent political activists, Buddhist monks, labor activists, journalists and artists were arrested in Burma in 2009 and sentenced to draconian prison terms after unfair trials, the organization said, noting that the military government’s human rights record continued to deteriorate last year ahead of an election announced for 2010.

In its 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, HRW summarized major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide.

It said attacks on rights monitors were not limited to authoritarian countries such as Burma and China.

“Attacks on rights defenders might be seen as a perverse tribute to the human rights movement, but that doesn’t mitigate the danger,” Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote in the introduction to the World Report 2010. “Under various pretexts, abusive governments are attacking the very foundations of the human rights movement.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Aung Myo Min, the director of Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, said, “The Burmese military junta commits systematic human rights abuses and crimes against humanity every year.”

Bo Kyi, the joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, pointed the finger at Russia and China, saying the two countries “supported Burma and other regimes that are committing human rights abuses.”

He added: “The United Nations has many weaknesses because it cannot take action against abusers of human rights. It should revise and amend its policies and mechanisms on human rights.”

Of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial last year, the report said, “The trial dragged on for three months, with frequent delays and with international fair trial standards lacking.”

It said that “an estimated 2,100 political prisoners remain incarcerated for their peaceful activities in Burma. More than 230 Buddhist monks involved in the 2007 protests remain in prison.”

In 2009, international calls increased for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma, and for a UN arms embargo to be imposed,” the report said. “But China, Russia and North Korea still sell arms to the Burmese military junta.”

The report also criticized the Burmese armed forces. “The Burmese military continues to perpetrate violations against civilians in ethnic conflict areas, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and sexual violence,” it said, expressing concern about internally displaced people, refugees and child soldiers.

HRW said that despite the growth in the human rights movement, human rights defenders remain vulnerable and greatly in need of support by rights-respecting governments.

“Governments that consider themselves human rights supporters often keep silent in the face of these abuses by allies, citing diplomatic or economic priorities,” Roth said. “But that silence makes them complicit in the abuse. The only proper response to serious human rights violations is to turn up the heat on the abusers.”

“There is no country in the world which fully respects human rights,” said Aung Myo Min. “Most world powers, including the US, China and Russia, have cooperated with human rights abusers in their national interests or as an act of economic or foreign policy.”

The report said human rights monitors had been killed in Russia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Burundi and Afghanistan, while Sudan and China routinely shut down human rights groups.

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