– VOA News
Two former United Nations special rapporteurs are urging the European Union to support a commission of inquiry to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.
The United States and other countries have already backed the establishment of an inquiry, which was proposed in March by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the current special rapporteur for human rights in Burma. Such a probe could lead to prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Quintana’s predecessors are Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and Yozo Yokota. In a letter dated Tuesday to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, they said the pattern of human rights violations by the Burmese military rulers is “severe, widespread and systematic.”
They added that there is well-documented evidence in Burma of forced labor, rape as a weapon of war, forcible conscription of child soldiers, religious persecution, torture and killings.
Copies of the letter were addressed to the government of Belgium — which holds the rotating presidency of the EU — and to senior EU diplomats.
It was distributed to news organizations on Wednesday by the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an activist group that says it aims to end the military dictatorship in Burma.
Quintana’s proposal was contained in a March 2010 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
He wrote that “consistent reports” raise the possibility that some rights violations in Burma “may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
He added that U.N. institutions “may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes.”
The pressure for an investigation comes as Burma is moving toward its first parliamentary election in 20 years.
Strict election rules have made it impossible for opposition parties to compete effectively, prompting charges that the election is designed merely to legitimize the ruling military junta’s hold on power.