Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Burmese lawyers says junta should be taken to ICC

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima)– The Burma Lawyers’ Council in exile has said it is gathering evidence and collating ideas on how to produce the Burmese military generals in the International Criminal Court (ICC), for the crimes it had committed, including crimes against humanity.

The BLC, formed with Burmese lawyers in exile, on Tuesday said, it was looking for a way to file a case against the Burmese junta, for its crimes against the country’s citizens.

“We are looking at ways to determine how we can file a case against the junta, for their brutal actions against the Burmese people,” Thein Oo, Chairman of the BLC, told Mizzima.

He said, as a step towards looking for a way to bring the junta to the ICC, the BLC along with the International Federation for Human Rights (IFDH) is bringing together international experts, Burmese activists and others to a two-day seminar in Bangkok.

“This seminar is to brainstorm on how best to get justice for the suffering people in Burma and how the international community can take action against the brutal regime,” Thein Oo said.

The campaign to bring the Burmese military junta to the ICC began about two years ago, with a vague idea by the BLC. However, today, it has gained momentum and is able to draw the attention of international experts as well as the Burmese regime.

On Friday, May 1, 2009, Burma’s military regime in its official mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, declared the Burma Lawyers’ Council and other associated organizations and persons as unlawful.

The paper said, acts of the BLC and its members were harmful for the stability of the nation and therefore, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Snr Gen Than Shwe declared the BLC and its members unlawful.

Although this gesture of the Burmese regime may seem to be a mere coincidence, sources in the military establishment told Mizzima, the junta fears that the BLC’s efforts might gain greater momentum.

According to sources, the Burmese embassy in Bangkok was diplomatically approaching Thailand, where the seminar is being held on May 4 and 5.

During the seminar, Burmese activists and international experts discussed how the regime had perpetrated human rights abuses with impunity and how they could be made accountable for the crimes they had committed.

But, as Burma has not rectified the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court in July 2002, the ICC does not have any jurisdiction over Burma.

However, a clause under the statute of Territorial Jurisdiction of the treaty allows the ICC to act on a case based on a referral by the United Nations Security Council. The clause says the court is allowed to exercise jurisdiction, “where a situation is referred to the court by the UN Security Council”.

Thein Oo said, “The case of the UN Security Council referring it to the ICC might not take place soon but we are already in the process of campaigning for it.”

He said, they would present the case to the UNSC explaining how Burma’s military regime’s actions were threatening peace and security in the region.

Rights groups have accused Burma’s military junta of systematically abusing the rights of its own citizens, causing outflow of a large number of refugees and migrants. The junta’s military actions in eastern Burma have also particularly caused thousands of people to become homeless and live in the jungles.

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