New York based human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sent a letter to all European Union (EU) member states asking them to support a commission of enquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the military junta.
They ‘urged’ the states to push for the formation of a commission at the autumn session on Burma at the UN General Assembly in September.
The EU has shown vocal support to such a position, in May it passed a resolution, which committed: “publicly to support the recommendation of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma/Myanmar that the United Nations establish a commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma/Myanmar, and to include this request in the draft resolution to be discussed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010.”
The said report follows in a long line of highly critical reports on Burma’s human rights record and earned Mr Quintana a ban from visiting Burma after his report; “demonstrated that serious crimes by government security forces are widespread and systematic, and continue with utter impunity” according to HRW’s letter.
Whilst HRW executive director, Keneth Roth said in a press release that; “Ritually condemning Burma in annual General Assembly resolutions is no longer enough,”… “The UN needs to raise the price for continuing abuses by starting to investigate them.”
HRW note that there have been 19 resolutions in the UN general assembly but there has never been any form of commission of inquiry into the crimes committed by the ruling junta. Much of the failure of such action has been as a result of China’s veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This patronage is believed to have given China favour over rivals in Burmese mineral acquisitions.
There have been concerted calls from activists and victims to refer the military government to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Who have previously accused Sudanese leader, Omar Bashir of similar crimes relating to his government’s actions in the southern Darfur region of the country.
With 111 signatories the ICC has had a short and difficult history, not least because of the United States’ failure to ratify its founding treaty, with former President George W. Bush even suggesting that he would bomb the Hague if it tried any US service personnel and after stating that the US had no intention of ratifying the treaty the US passed a law that with a few exceptions stated that the US would withhold military aid to any signatory nations of the treaty. Such crimes as war of aggression, under the framework set by the allies at the Nurenberg trials this would be one of the most serious crimes and would carry the death penalty, which some allege the former US leader is guilty of.
Whilst HRW note that; “The June 2010 Kampala Declaration resulting from the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reiterated the commitment of 111 ICC member states ‘to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern.’”
How enforcement of an ‘end to impunity’ will transpire is a major problem whilst the most powerful military; the US enjoys impunity even though prior to his election Obama stated his belief that the US should ratify the treaty. Like many of his assertions, it has failed to materialise. Whilst Burma’s patron and regional power house China, never even pretended to be interested, neither signing nor ratifying the process.
However Roth further noted in the press release that; “Continuing business as usual in Burma will only embolden rights abusers”… “Establishing an international Commission of Inquiry would be an important first step towards bringing abusers to justice and ending impunity in Burma.”