Burma is once more in the headlines, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi again on trial, and the United Nations considering yet another condemnation of the military junta that rules Burma.
A Harvard Law School human rights group says it's time to do more than just issue another statement about Burma. Rather, the report argues, the United Nations Security Council should hold a formal commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that could lead to an international tribunal like those for the former Yugoslavia and Darfur.
The Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic issued a detailed report today finding that "human rights abuses in Burma are widespread, systematic and part of state policy." It said the evidence suggests the Burmese regime "may be committing crimes against humanity and war crimes prosecutable under international law."
The clinic's 114-page report examines sources including 15 years worth of UN documents reporting on abuses including the forced displacement of 3,000 villages in eastern Burma and "widespread and systematic sexual violence, torture and summary execution of innocent civilians."
The report was commissioned by five of the world's most prominent legal experts on human rights: Judge Richard Goldstone of South Africa, Judge Patricia Wald of the United States, Judge Pedro Nikken of Venezuela, Judge Ganzorig Bombosuren of Mongolia and Sir Geoffrey Nice of Britain. These jurists all have experience investigating human rights abuses and prosecuting the alleged perpetrators in international rights tribunals.
The jurists write in the preface to the report: "Over and over again, UN resolutions and special rapporteurs have spoken out about the abuses that have been reported to them in Burma. The UN Security Council has not moved forward as it should and has in similar situations such as those in the former Yugoslavia and Darfur."
That commission of inquiry's findings would determine whether the Burma situation is referred to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal, the jurists say.
The Rights Clinic is part of the law school's Human Rights Program, which studies human rights conditions around the world.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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