ALTSEAN-BURMA
Alternative Asean Network on Burma
campaigns, advocacy and capacity-building for human rights
Home
Research
Multimedia
Links
About Us
PRESS RELEASES, OPEN LETTERS, STATEMENTS

Paris Brussels Bangkok, March 23, 2010

THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL SHOULD ENDORSE THE REPORT AND THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN MYANMAR/BURMA

Excellencies,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (ALTSEAN), the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) strongly urge the Human Rights Council to endorse the conclusions and recommendations put forward by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Professor Tomas Quintana, in his latest report to the Council on March 15, 2010.

Our Organisations strongly support the Special Rapporteur's findings that ''there is a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights which has been in place for many years and still continues.'' We further concur with his conclusion that the lack of accountability and the systematic and widespread human rights violations indicate that they are ''the result of a state policy'' that involves state actors at all levels. FIDH, ALTSEAN-Burma and BLC have already drawn the attention to the fact that some of these alleged violations may amount to international crimes and the Burmese government is thus obliged to investigate and prosecute those responsible and provide redress to victims. The ongoing lack of accountability for these alleged violations at the national level, warrants the consideration by the UN of ''the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes,'' as stated in Special Rapporteur's report.

The undersigning organisations have long been requesting for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of international crimes committed in Burma. As stated in his latest and previous reports as well as in those of other UN special procedures and mechanisms, consistent reports of crimes perpetrated by the Burmese military include the destruction of over 3,000 ethnic minority villages, rampant use of forced labour in certain areas, the conscription of tens of thousands of child soldiers, the forced displacement of over one million refugees and internally displaced persons, and the widespread and systematic rape of women in the ethnic minority regions of the country. These crimes have already been condemned repeatedly by the UN General Assembly, the then UN Commission of Human Rights, the ILO, as well as the Human Rights Council.

The ILO office in Rangoon has received a number of complaints against forced labour, but reprisals against people associated with forced labour complaints to the ILO continue. We support the Special Rapporteur's findings that this is in clear breach of the spirit and letter of the protections provided in the Supplementary Understanding. We also support the Rapporteur’s encouragement for the strengthening of ILO presence in the country and the important link made between extractive industries and forced labour violations in the report. Exaction of forced labour happens against a backdrop of an increasing number of strikes in Burma. The ITUC and its affiliated organization, the Federation of Trade Unions – Burma, have long held that the situation with regards to freedom of association and the right to organize in Burma is an integral part of the development of true democracy in Burma. As long as statesponsored and orchestrated violations continue unabated and have not been addressed, the general elections planned for this year will bring neither true democracy nor genuine national reconciliation in the country. The undemocratic election laws announced recently and the Burmese government's inaction on key benchmarks established by the international community are also clear indications of the government's recalcitrance on real political reform. For our Organisations, it is time to act. It is not the time to stand by silently as the Burmese government defiantly follows a road map to entrench military rule and further repression of political opponents, ethnic nationalities and workers. The Council should endorse the Special Rapporteur's report and send a clear signal to the Burmese authorities that a tremendous accountability gap remains unfilled and its current approach to national reconciliation is deeply flawed. Doing so will also reaffirm the international community's support for the four core human rights elements proposed by the Special Rapporteur, which remain unrealised by the Burmese military regime up to date.

We appreciate your serious consideration of our request.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

Guy Ryder
ITUC Secretary General

Thein Oo
BLC President

Debbie Stothard
ALTSEAN Burma Coordinator