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UN urged to maintain human rights pressure on Burma

The European Burma Network (EBN) has called on the UN to remain vigilant as human rights violations continue in Burma.

As the elements of the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution on Burma is discussed by the European Union, 14 Burma-focussed NGOs released a statement on Monday highlighting continuing breaches of international law by the Burmese government.

The EBN told the EU to ignore any notion that human rights violations in Burma were a thing of the past and to advise the UNHRC to maintain pressure on the Thein Sein government.

Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner told DVB on Tuesday that “not only has the reform process slowed down, but we are starting to see some small reverses. This in undoubtedly connected to the fact that Thein Sein is no longer facing significant international pressure.

“A weak Human Rights Council Resolution will undermine incentives for making improvements in human rights,” Farmaner added.

The EBN statement outlined unwillingness on the government’s part to “take the necessary steps to end human rights abuses”.

The report alleges that of the 63 recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly made in September 2013 by former Special Rapporteur on Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana, “Not one has been fully acted upon by the government of Burma.”

As a result, “members of the EBN believe that ongoing impunity for serious human rights abuses means that international law mechanisms are the most appropriate framework through which to address these crimes.”

According to Farmaner, “There is already enough documentation by the United Nations to justify Burma being referred to the International Criminal Court.”

In its last resolution, the UNCHR outlined instances of human rights abuses which meet the criteria for international crimes, including arbitrary detention, forced displacement, the use of child soldiers, rape and other forms of sexual violence, military attacks on civilians, and torture.

The EBN sees Thein Sein’s failure to release all political prisoners, despite his claims to the contrary, as providing a strong example of his “unwillingness” to comply with UNHRC edicts and a breach of international law.


The first recommendation listed in Quintana’s report of September 2013 states that “all prisoners of conscience should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Despite this, Thein Sein’s government currently enjoys a positive relationship with one-time detractors in the international community. Last year, the EU itself lifted the last of its trade sanctions on Burma, leaving only an arms trade embargo in place.

However BCUK’s Farmaner believes that the EU’s firmest foreign policy weapon was sheathed prematurely:

“The EU lifted sanctions without any of its own human rights benchmarks being met, and shortly after state involvement of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and multiple cases of the Burmese army raping Kachin women.

“The way the international community treats Thein Sein is the equivalent if the police in one country said, ‘this man might have committed murder several times but we’ll let him get away with it because he is more friendly than his predecessor and does some good work in his local community’,” Farmaner added.


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