Friday, May 22, 2009

Harvard study blames UN Security Council for inaction in Myanmar

New York (M&C)- Harvard Law School said in a damning study released Thursday that the UN Security Council has failed to deal with Myanmar's human rights violations, which it said have been 'widespread, systematic and part of state policy.'

The study said the 15-nation council, whose main responsibility is to keep the peace and security around the world, has taken action against war crime and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sudan, but has neglected the situation in Myanmar.

It cited numerous investigations, both from the United Nations and from private sources, on the Myanmar military junta's severe human rights abuses that have been made available to the council, but to no effect.

'Yet, despite such documentation from multiple UN organs, the UN Security Council has not moved to investigate potential crimes against humanity or war crimes in Burma,' the study said.

The UN council has taken up issues in Myanmar in the past two years. But it was hampered by strong objections from China and Russia whenever it wanted to take action against the country's military junta. China and Southeast Asian nations have preferred to deal with the junta on the diplomatic level and rejected strong measures such as economic sanctions against the country.

The study by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School was issued at the same time the military junta in Yangon brought to trial opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the flimsy charge that she illegally harboured a US national who allegedly swam to her residence.

The trial has been strongly criticized by Western capitals, but not those in Asia.

The study was commissioned by five well known jurists, who have each dealt with cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are Judges Richard Goldstone of South Africa, Patricia Wald of the US, Pedro Nikken of Venezuela, Ganzorig Gombosuren of Mongolia and Geoffrey Nice of Britain. The five have called on the UN council in New York to launch an investigation on Myanmar's human rights abuses.

The jurists wrote in the Harvard study that findings by the various investigations are 'disturbing and compelling, especially in light of the Clinic's exclusive reliance on official UN documents for its research.'

'The UN Security Council, however, has not moved the process forward as it should and has in similar situations such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Darfur,' they said, reiterating their demand for an inquiry.

'The world cannot wait while the military regime continues its atrocities against the people of Burma,' they said, using the country's former name and calling on the International Criminal Court or the establishment of a special tribunal to deal with Myanmar.

The jurists called on the UN council to declare that Myanmar's situation is a threat to international peace and security and initiate a formal investigation through a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes committed in that country.

The UN council should be prepared to refer crimes committed by the military junta to the ICC, which has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The study said Myanmar has doubled the number of troops deployed in the eastern part and the southern Shan regions of the country where tensions have been high with ethnic minorities. Myanmar's military has been accused of causing widespread displacement of the civilian population - more than 500,000 - in the past 10 years.

The study said it drew its conclusion based on scores of UN documents, which it said indicate that human rights abuses in Myanmar are 'widespread, systematic and part of state policy - legal terms that justify further investigation and strongly that Burma's military regime may be committing crimes against humanity and war crimes prosecutable under international law.'

It said those crimes include 'systematic sexual violence, torture, and summary execution of innocent civilians.'

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