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Open letter: France must rally the European Union to support a UN inquiry into international crimes in Burma
International Federation for Human Rights
8 August 2011
Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy
President of the Republic of France
Palais de l’Elysée

Mr. Alain Juppé
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
Ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes

H.E. Mr. Thierry Mathou
Ambassador of France to Burma

(…) On the 23rd anniversary of Burma’s nationwide pro-democracy uprising on 8 August 1988 and the subsequent violent crackdown, Info-Birmanie, the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (LDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma) and the Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC) would like to seek your urgent attention and action to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma as well as the impact of the ongoing conflict in ethnic nationalities areas.

In order to address impunity which is the country’s biggest obstacle to reconciliation and democratic transition, our organizations call on your authority to urge the international community, especially the European Union, to act to establish a United Nations-mandated Commission of Inquiry into international crimes committed in Burma. (…)

The abuses documented by UN institutions and procedures and their description in past General Assembly resolutions provide prima facie evidence that points to the commission of numerous different types of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These includes the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, forced labour, deliberate targeting of civilians, use of torture, forced displacement, recruitment of child soldiers, imprisonment of almost 2,000 political opponents, and persecution of ethnic minorities. Recognizing the lack of accountability for such abuses over many years, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma has called on the UN to consider the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry since March 2010.

The EU is responsible for drafting this year’s General Assembly resolution on Burma. FIDH, LDH, Altsean-Burma, Info-Birmanie and BLC call on France to mobilize all EU Member States to fully support the inclusion in the resolution of a request to set up a Commission of Inquiry. We believe it is high time that the international community recognize and confront the unwillingness of the Burmese authorities to end impunity for international crimes which continue unabated after the sham elections in November 2010.

Our organizations believe that a Commission should have a mandate to:
- Investigate and verify the allegations of serious abuses perpetrated by the Burmese government and its State security forces, brought forward by various UN procedures and institutions and non-governmental organizations;
- Determine whether these human rights violations constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes under international law;
- Document whether measures have been undertaken by the authorities to prevent the crimes, investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, and provide justice for victims; and
- Make recommendations on remedies, accountability, and rule of law reforms and reparations measures to adequately address these crimes. (…)

The EU, as a key stakeholder, has both the moral leadership and imperative to heed the calls of the UN and uphold their responsibility to protect the people of Burma from international crimes. The EU has also traditionally supported efforts for accountability around the world. It is therefore time for the EU to demonstrate political will and leadership in establishing a Commission of Inquiry through a UNGA resolution. As far as ASEAN is concerned, it is only sensible for it to stop being complicit in prolonging impunity in Burma, since it has been dealing with the regional consequences of international crimes committed there. Once established, a Commission of Inquiry and Burma’s cooperation with it will assist ASEAN in determining whether Burma is  appropriately qualified to chair ASEAN, and in evaluating Burma’s commitment to democracy. (…)
(…) Our organizations therefore intend to echo, as expressed by all our Burmese partner organizations, the wish of the people of Burma to see that the democratic aspirations with which they annually mark the 8 August anniversary will be matched by resolute action of the international community to create a Commission of Inquiry as a first step towards ending impunity, so that one day they will be able to celebrate this date in genuine peace and freedom.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns and recommendations. We are at your disposal should you have any questions.

Sincerely yours,

Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH
Pierre Tartakowsky, President of LDH
Frédéric Debomy, President of Info-Birmanie
Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of Altsean-Burma, Deputy Secretary-General of FIDH
U Thein Oo, Chairman of BLC (…)
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