Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pinheiro Calls for UN Commission of Inquiry

The Irrawaddy News

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the United Nations special reporteur on human rights in Burma from 2000 to 2008, has called for the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity by the Burmese junta with a potential indictment by the International Criminal Court.

In a column in The New York Times on Wednesday, Pinheiro said the action could deter future crimes against humanity and address the widespread culture of impunity in Burma.

The UN official said Aung San Suu Kyi should be released immediately along with all of the country's political prisoners as part of a process of national reconciliation.

During the past 15 years, the Burmese Army has destroyed more than 3,300 villages in a systematic and widespread campaign to subjugate ethnic groups, Pinheiro said. UN reports indicate that Burmese soldiers have recruited child soldiers, used civilians as minesweepers and forced thousands of villagers into slave labor.

He said in December 2008 a Burmese soldier went into an ethnic Karen village in eastern Burma and abducted, raped and killed a 7-year-old girl.

A UN report in 2000 said that an estimated 625 women were systematically raped in Burma's Shan State over a five-year period.

Pinheiro said that since 1990, UN representatives have visited Burma 37 times in an attempt to facilitate dialogue with the political opposition and promote human rights.

The UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have passed more than 35 resolutions on Burma, he said, but the UN Security Council has yet to pass a single critical resolution. Permanent members of the Security Council have the right of veto, easily preventing the Security Council from taking critical actions against the Burmese government. China, Russia and India are frequent supporters of Burma.

Meanwhile, a global internet campaign was launched on Tuesday with support from world celebrities for detained pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi (www.64forSuu .org). Video, text, images and twitter messages are available.

Also, human rights campaigners are encouraging well-wishers to enter 64-word messages of support for Suu Kyi before her June 19 birthday on the "64 words for Aung San Suu Kyi" Web site (

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent birthday wishes to Suu Kyi on Wednesday, joining the online campaign.

Brown wrote: "I add my voice to the growing chorus of those demanding your release. For too long the world has failed to act in the face of this intolerable injustice. That is now changing. The clamor for your release is growing across Europe, Asia and the entire world. We must do all we can to make this birthday the last you spend without your freedom.”

The online campaign, launched on Wednesday, has already received more than 1,400 messages of support for the pro-democracy leader, Web designer Rachel Collinson told Reuters.

Critics have denounced Suu Kyi's trial as a legal charade designed to keep her in detention during the 2010 national election.

Eleven Nobel Prize Peace laureates appealed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in an open letter on May 18, urging him to take immediate action against the imprisonment of fellow laureate Suu Kyi.

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