UN urges war crimes probe in Myanmar

BANGKOK: A UN special envoy upped pressure on Myanmar’s ruling junta today with a pre-election call for an investigation into whether the regime is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Tomas Ojea Quintana made the recommendation in a report to be examined next Monday by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, noting “systematic violation of human rights” when he visited the country in February.

The report adds to growing

international outrage at Myanmar’s military regime after it

issued new laws for elections due later this year that bar detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part.

“According to consistent reports, the possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the statute of the International Criminal Court,” said the report.

Quintana pointed out that

the “mere existence of this

possibility” requires the

Myanmar government to investigate the allegations.

But the junta has failed to remedy abuses such as the recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against the Muslim minority in northern Rakhine state and the deprivation of basic rights to food, shelter, health and education.

The UN should therefore

consider setting up a panel to probe the allegations, Quintana said — echoing a long-term demand of rights groups for Myanmar’s ruling generals to face war crimes charges.

“Given this lack of accountability, UN institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes,” he said.

He said rights violations had continued unabated for years in Myanmar without any intervention from the junta.

He charged that the violations “are the result of a state policy that originates from decisions by authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels.”

The expert also renewed a

call for Myanmar to release

more than 2,100 political prisoners, as well Suu Kyi, ahead of this year’s elections.

Suu Kyi called on Myanmar citizens on Thursday to respond to the “unjust” laws, under which her own National League for Democracy must expel her from the party ranks or face dissolution.

“She didn’t think such a repressive law would come out,” said her lawyer and NLD spokesman Nyan Win after he visited the opposition leader, who has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years.

The new laws also officially annul the result of Myanmar’s last elections in 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide. The junta never allowed the party to take power.