Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is it Time to Take Than Shwe to International Criminal Court?

The Irrawaddy News

East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and the Burma Lawyers’ Council have announced they are ready to appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to charge Snr-Gen Than Shwe with criminal acts.

The ICC was established in 2002 as a permanent international tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber can authorize its Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation on the basis of information received from outside sources.

Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he would appeal to the ICC to investigate Burma’s ruling junta if it fails to free Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested last week and is standing trial on what many say are trumped up charges.

The Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC) said on Saturday it will seek to restore the rule of law to Burma by asking the ICC to launch an investigation into human rights abuses and violations of international law in Burma.

Nan Shan Hpound, a team leader of the BLC Working Team for the International Criminal Court, told The Irrawaddy, "Now we are gathering evidence and collating information on how to prosecute the military generals in the International Criminal Court.”

Ramos-Horta said he will urge the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC to investigate and prosecute Sen-Gen Than Shwe and other responsible leaders of the State Peace and Development Council for crimes committed under their leadership.

The ICC has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes which have been committed or are being committed if a given state’s judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate and take legal action to ensure justice.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now being tried for violation of her house arrest, is being detained under the State Protection Law of 1975. The government is permitted to detain her for five years under that law. Contrary to law, they have already held her in detention for almost six years.

The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said it also supports a move to appeal to the ICC and called for the international community to join in referring Snr-Gen Than Shwe and others to the ICC.

Lway Aye Nang, the general-secretary of the WLB, told The Irrawaddy, "The time has come to say enough is enough. The United Nations should invoke its responsibility-to-protect mechanism and establish a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma. The Burmese military ignores all international laws and uses rape as a weapon of war. Snr-Gen Than Shwe is a real criminal.”

International condemnation against the Burmese military government has increased as a result of its recent arrest and prosecution of Suu Kyi, who faces a five-year prison sentence if she is found guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest. She has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

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