Friday, May 22, 2009

Harvard report calls on UNSC to investigate Burma

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A Harvard Law School human rights group said they have found evidence of human rights violations committed by Burma’s military rulers and have called on the UN Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

A new report titled ‘Crimes in Burma’ by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School says documents from the United Nations and reports from various Human Rights Rapportuers to Burma provide grounds for investigation into international crimes and called on the UN Security Council to initiate more concerted action vis-à-vis Burma.

Tyler Gianni, Clinical Director of the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and one of the report’s authors, told Mizzima on Friday that the report was based on reports of various sources, the studies of UN documents and the resolutions of the Human Rights Council.

Gianni said the report is based on incidences of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime since 2002 and particularly on four types of abuse - forced relocation, sexual violence, extra-judicial killings and torture.

He said the study finds “there is strong evidence of systematic and widespread human rights violations [in Burma] and based on legal terms that crimes against humanity are taking place.”

The report also compares the situation of human rights violations, particularly in eastern Burma, to that of the former Yugoslavia and Darfur and calls on the UN Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by the ruling junta.

The report says at least 3,000 villages have been forcibly evacuated in eastern Burma, more than in Darfur.

“So that’s why the commission of inquiry should look at this issue in more depth and do a thorough investigation,” Gianni said.

The 114-page report was commissioned by five of the world's most prominent legal experts on human rights - Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, Judge Patricia Wald of the United States, Judge Pedro Nikken of Venezuela, Judge Ganzorig Bombosuren of Mongolia and Sir Geoffrey Nice of Britain.

The jurists are known for their experience in investigating human rights abuses and prosecuting the alleged perpetrators in international rights tribunals.

The jurists in the preface wrote that UN resolutions and Special Rapporteurs have over and over again spoken out about abuses in Burma.

But “The UN Security Council has not moved forward as it should and has in similar situations such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Darfur," said the jurists, adding that in those cases the UN Security Council established a commission of inquiry once they were aware of the severity of the problem to further investigate the gravity of the violations.

“With Burma, there has been no such action despite being similarly aware (as demonstrated in UN documents) of the widespread and systematic nature of the violations,” the jurists argued.

Currently, Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is facing trial in a special court inside notorious Insein Prison in Rangoon. She faces charges of breaching her detention law because an American, John William Yettaw, allegedly visited her after swimming about a mile across Inya Lake, which abuts her home.

The international community, including the UN and world leaders, has reacted with strong words of condemnation for the Burmese military junta for putting Aung San Suu Kyi on trial and has called the trial a trumped-up case to continue detaining her, as she is to complete her six years of house arrest at the end of May.

Gianni said the trial against Aung San Suu Kyi is a classic example of the junta’s violation of the rights of the citizens of Burma.

“The report is specifically calling on the UNSC to establish a commission of inquiry and follow-up like it does in other areas such as in Darfur,” Gianni concluded.

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