Monday, June 1, 2009

Former Burmese intelligence official ‘would testify’ at ICC

(DVB)–A former Burmese senior intelligence official and ambassador to Washington has said he would testify against Burma’s ruling generals if they are eventually brought in front of the International Criminal Court.

On Saturday Burma marked the six-year anniversary of the Depayin massacre, in which 70 supporters of opposition National League for Democracy party were killed by a government-backed militia.

The massacre happened whilst Aung San Suu Kyi had been campaigning for supporters, and following the incident she was placed under house arrest.

Speaking to DVB on the anniversary, Aung Lin Htut, who served as the junta’s deputy ambassador in Washington before he sought asylum in the US in 2005, supported the idea of bringing the junta to the ICC.

“I myself would testify if [junta leader Than Shwe] is taken to the international court,” he said.

“Even if I am imprisoned, I could appear as witness.”

The comments were backed by the general secretary of the exiled Burma Lawyers’ Council, Aung Htoo, who is campaigning to take those responsible for the Depayin massacre to the ICC.

“The most obvious point about Depayin is that no one was arrested and no action was taken against a serious crime known to the country and the world,” he said.

“[The authorities] not only failed to take responsibility for the security, it was also arranged that people who take the security responsibility commit the crime.”

Burma’s military government, and Than Shwe in particular, are said to be shaken by the idea of being taken to the ICC.

A number of people have suggested recently that the spiraling human rights situation in Burma, particularly regarding the use of child soldiers and increasing numbers of political prisoners, warranted attention from the ICC.

Last week, Thai MP Kraisak Choonhavan, who also heads the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, said the junta should be brought to court.

“If they [ICC] are in their right mind and they go through the facts, there is no denying that [junta leader] Than Shwe and his cronies should be persecuted at the ICC,” he said.

Similarly, a group of over 60 British MPs last month called for a United Nations commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma.

And in April, former senior legal adviser to the ICC, Morten Bergsmo, said that the Burmese army’s use of child soldiers could constitute a war crime.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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