Lawyers accuse junta of war crimes

May 6, 2009 (DVB), An exiled Burmese lawyers group recently ruled illegal by the Burmese government have said that the extent and severity of crimes committed by the junta warrant accusations of war crimes and genocide.

A conference yesterday convened by Thailand-based Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) and umbrella organisation, Human Rights for All (FIDH), discussed the government's indifference to international pressure on human rights violations.

"There are crimes committed in Burma including war crimes, genocide and massacre that are untouchable by the courts inside the country due to a breakdown of judicial system," said Thein Oo, chairman of BLC.

The judicial system in Burma is under the direct jurisdiction of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and lawyers representing activists and opposition members are regularly intimidated.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) puts the number of lawyers currently serving prison sentences at 16.

"During the seminar, we discussed finding a way to bring the Burmese regime to the International Criminal Court," said Thein Oo.

"There was the Depayin massacre in 2003 and protests in September 2007, followed by cyclone Nargis a year later, and so many lives were lost during these events.

"If we fail to take action on the Burmese government, such events will continue."

The statement echoes a claim made last month by former senior legal adviser to the International Criminal Court, Morten Bergsmo, that the Burmese army's use of child soldiers could constitute a war crime.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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