Burmese Regime Urged to Respect Laws of War

Irrawaddy news, 25 March 2011

A US-based human rights group has sent an open letter to Burma’s ruling regime urging it to respect international humanitarian laws, or “laws of war,†and cooperate with a UN investigation into alleged war crimes by the Burmese military.

The letter, addressed to the regime’s judge advocate general, Maj-Gen Yar Pyae, and signed by James Ross, the legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), also urged the regime to ensure that those responsible for abuses are held accountable.

“The army leadership needs to send the message that abuses must stop, and enforce that message by prosecuting the perpetrators,†the letter said.

Burmese military forces have long been accused of directly targeting civilians for attack in a number of ethnic minority areas, including in Karen, Karenni, Shan, Chin and Arakan states.

The letter cited a variety of offenses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence against women and girls, forced labor, targeting of food production and other objects indispensable to the survival of the population, and confiscation of property.

The regime and other armed groups in Burma have also been criticized for using anti-personnel landmines and actively recruiting and deploying child soldiers. There have also been widespread reports of the junta using prisoners as army porters, in some cases even forcing them to act as human minesweepers.

The letter said that the regime should show it is serious about addressing these issues by “expressing a willingness to cooperate with a proposal to establish a United Nations Commission of Inquiry on laws-of-war and human rights violations.â€

Such a move would “help curtail abuses by the country’s warring parties,†Ross said. “It would also open the door within the country for serious discussions about justice and accountability.â€

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