British MPs allege war crimes in Burma

Nov 27, 2009 (DVB), A group of high profile MPs in Britain have submitted a parliamentary petition calling for the United Nations to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma (APPG Burma) said in the petition this morning that it "expresses grave concern at the escalating systematic human rights abuses being perpetrated against the people of Burma by the military dictatorship".

It added that civilians are the targets of "widespread torture, forced displacement, sexual violence, extra-judicial killings and forced labour".

Furthermore, the British government should urge the United Nations to establish a Commission of Inquiry into these crimes, it said.

It is the second time this year that the APPG Burma has tabled what is known as an Early Day Motion (EDM) on Burma, and signs of progress by the UN have been hard to see.

"You can't tell really whether [EDM's] have any impact; you just do all you can in every way with the means you've got to move things along," said Julie Morgan, one of the MPs who signed the Motion.

"I think we would probably all say that we are disappointed [with the UN]; we don't feel that there has been a great deal of progress which is why we think it is necessary to table this again."

She added that there was a lack of unity among countries within the UN on how to tackle the crisis in Burma, with "different countries having different interests".

The Motion was however welcomed by campaigners in Britain, who echoed calls for the British government to pressure the UN.

"For many years, the UN has ignored its own evidence of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Burma," said Nang Seng, campaigns officer at Burma Campaign UK. "It is the time for the UN to take action".

The Motion also called on the British government to support the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in referring the Burmese junta to the International Court of Justice for its use of forced labour.

A report released by the ILO this month said that the number complaints it had received about forced labour in Burma had doubled in the past five months.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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