Belgium Supports Commission of Inquiry into Burma’s Rights Abuse
04 February 2011: Belgium announced that it will support the creation of a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into allegations of war crimes and crime against hunanity in Burma. The host state of the European Union joins a rapidly growing chorus of international call to end impunity and widespread and systematic rights violations in Burma.
Responding to parliamentary questions in the Belgian Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Steven Van Ackere said, “In the coming weeks, we must gather all the analytical elements to draw conclusions for the future. Nevertheless, it is essential that in this exercise, the past not be hidden. The proposal to establish a Commission of Inquiry into War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity [in Burma], recommended by the Quintana Report, must therefore, logically be included into this process, in my opinion.”
The Belgian foreign minister’s statement comes only one week after the military regime denied all allegations of human rights violations in the country at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva where Burma faced examination of its human rights practice – the country’s first since the Universal Periodic Review mechansim was instituted in 2006, which all member states of the UN must undergo every four years.
In welcoming the Belgian position, the Brussels-based Action Birmanie said, “”There is abundant proof of the possible crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Burmese generals, and these crimes occur increasingly. The time has come for these (crimes) to be investigated, in order to put an end to the culture of impunity, which feeds on a daily basis the oppression in Burma.”
Meanwhile, new evidences supporting the urgency of an international investigation has recently emerged. A report last month by a US-based respected rights group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), found that nearly all of the population of the Chin State in western Burma, are continually subjected to serious human rights violations by the Burma Army, many of which can be considered crime against humanity.
Belgium becomes the 14th country to officially endorse the establishment of international investigation into crimes in Burma since the idea was first introduced by the UN secial human rights envoy to Burma, Tomas Quintana last year. Other countries which have publicly endorsed the call are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the United Kingdom. Support for the CoI has also come from many influential non-government entities including, the European Parliament, international rights and labor groups, Nobel Peace laureates, international judges and parliamentarians.
“We welcome the position and deeply appreciate the Belgium government’s endorsement. A UN-led international investigation is warranted to deter further rights violations in Burma. This is not just about accountability or bringing the generals to answer for their crimes, it is about saving and improving the lives of people,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), a group that was part of a joint delegation of activists from Burma lobbying governments during the UPR session in Geneva last month.
Rights group argue that the institution this week of a new semi-civilian government in Burma will have little to improve the human rights situations in the country, especially in the ethnic areas – unless Burmese soldiers are withdrawn from those regions, as government troops are responsible for the vast majority of serious human rights violations in Burma.