Saturday, May 7, 2011

Burma: Petition calling for UN commission of inquiry delivered to British foreign office

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Saturday, 7 May 2011,

A petition with 5,323 signatures calling for a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma and organized by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Partners Relief and Development, was delivered to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today.

The Head of the South-East Asia and Pacific Department at the FCO received the petition from a delegation including representatives from CSW, Partners Relief and Development, Burma’s National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA), and ethnic nationalities including Bwa Bwa Phan of the Karen Community Association UK, Van Biak Thang of the Chin Human Rights Organisation, Ring Du Lachyung of the Kachin National Organisation UK and Maung Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.In a letter to Foreign Secretary William Hague, accompanying the petition, CSW and Partners Relief and Development “warmly welcome the support the UK government has already given” for the recommendation made by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Special Rapporteur has made this recommendation in his reports to the UN in March 2011, October 2010 and March 2010. CSW and Partners Relief and Development urge the UK, as a member of the Security Council, “to provide increased, proactive leadership in support of these recommendations.”

CSW also urges the British government to raise war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma at the UN Security Council debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict next week, and to work to build an international coalition of support for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and an end to impunity in Burma. At least 15 countries have expressed support for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, in addition to the United Kingdom, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States.

In March 2010, the Special Rapporteur told the UN that the “gross and systematic” violations of human rights represented “a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels.” He went on to state that “according to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes.”

Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said: “We are grateful to the UK for the support it has given to Burma’s movement for democracy and human rights, and for its support for the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for an inquiry into crimes against humanity. The purpose of this petition is to encourage the UK to increase its efforts, to build an international coalition of support that could lead to the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the UN. The time for action is long overdue, particularly as the regime continues to attack civilians in ethnic states and jail and torture more than 2,000 prisoners of conscience. The crisis in Shan State and continuing offensives in Karen State make it even more imperative to take action. We hope that the UK and other countries already supportive of the idea will work together to ensure an end to the culture of impunity in which the regime has been allowed to violate international law.

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