Special Session on Myanmar

Press release

Mr President,

The recent crackdown on peaceful protesters evidences the extremely repressive nature of the Burmese military regime. According to various converging sources, there are reportedly more than two hundreds deaths due to the brutal crackdown of the military. Many of them were killed by gun-shots, some were beaten to death and some were killed by running military trucks at the crowd. The arrests are now believed to amount to nearly two thousands persons.

FIDH has expressed for many years its deepest concern regarding the grave and systematic human rights violations in Burma. The severe repression of any dissenting voice along with the imprisonment of an estimated 1,200 political prisoners [1] - a figure that does not include prisoners reportedly detained in ethnic areas and secret jails - demonstrate the lack of any political willingness of the junta to engage in the process of national reconciliation and on the path of democratization. Furthermore, the military operations in the ethnic areas of eastern Burma is having a devastating effect on human rights with 27,000 internally displaced people in 2006 alone. Those operations have been accompanied by crimes against humanity and allegations of war crimes, crimes of the competence of the International Criminal Court. The junta maintains its ability to forcibly control the Burmese population and to deny them their most basic human rights. The revenues from the key industries of oil, timber and gas, represent the strongest financial support to the junta.
- (See FIDH/InfoBirmanie/LDH Report, « Total Pollutes Democracy – stop TOTALitarianism in Burma », 04/07/2005.)

FIDH is traditionally opposed to economic sanctions because they generally have a detrimental impact on civilian populations. However, Burma is a special case because the revenues from those sectors benefit directly to the junta. Indeed, under the Burmese law, the State has the exclusive rights of exploitation on those three sectors. [2] 75% of the civilian population’s income derives from agriculture. The rest of the income derives mostly from the informal economy.

Foreign corporations investing in oil, timber and gas are obliged to set up a joint venture with a State enterprise. [3] They thus need to develop a direct collaboration with the regime and as a consequence provide financial support to the military junta.

FIDH expects the Special Session to strongly condemn the pattern of grave human rights violations, including the recent killings, torture and disappearances of monks and students engaged in pro-democracy demonstrations. The session should also take action on the persistent lack of cooperation of the military junta with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. It is the Council’s obligation to back up the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and ensure their concrete follow-up.

The HRC should request the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar to undertake an urgent visit to Burma, together with other relevant Human Rights Special Procedures, in order to thoroughly investigate the recent attacks on freedom of peaceful assembly, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial killings, but also the persistent refusal of the Burmese military government to implement the recommendations of the UN SR on HR in Myanmar.

The HRC should call upon the UN Security Council, based on its «responsibility to protect», to take all concrete measures necessary - including targeted sanctions in the sectors of oil, timber and gas, and an arms embargo - in order to ensure that the Burmese government liberates all political prisoners and engages in a genuine political dialogue with the opposition and representatives of minorities. International law imposes an obligation on all States to cooperate in order to bring an end to serious breaches of norms of international law which have the status of jus cogens norms [4]. One generation ago, the United Nations stood firmly united against the continuation apartheid in South Africa, and multilateral sanctions led to a transition towards democracy in that country. As Desmond Tutu has noted, Burma is today’s generation South Africa. We invite you to meet up to this challenge.

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