U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) today led a bipartisan group of 30 other senators in urging the Obama Administration to support the creation of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma. Senator Feinstein is the co-chair of the Senate Women's Caucus on Burma.
At a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in March, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, reported: "the possibility exists that some of [the regime's] human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court." Further, he stated: "United Nations institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes."
Below is the text of the letter sent by the bipartisan group of 32 senators to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
July 30, 2010
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madame Secretary:
We write to urge you to support the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether crimes against humanity and war crimes took place in Burma. While your administration continues along a path of sanctions and pragmatic engagement with Burma, we believe that such a commission will help convince Burma's military regime that we are serious about our commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for the people of Burma.
At the 13th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights Situation in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, released his latest report and urged the United Nations "to consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes" in Burma.
The Special Rapporteur argued that: "[g]iven the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations in Myanmar over a period of many years, and the lack of accountability, there is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military, and judiciary at all levels." Mr. Quintana further stated that "[a]ccording 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."
We appreciate the comments made by Douglas Griffiths, US Charge d'Affaires at US Mission to the UN in Geneva, in response to the report that "[t]his recommendation serves to underscore the seriousness of the human rights problems in the country and the pressing need for the international community to find an effective way to address challenges there."
Indeed, a number of reports have documented a consistent pattern of human rights abuses by the regime in Burma which must be addressed: the use of child soldiers, the destruction of villages and the displacement of ethnic minorities, the use of rape as a weapon of war, extrajudicial killings, forced relocation, and forced labor.
These abuses have been exacerbated by the regime's intention to hold elections in 2010 based on a constitution which disallows the full participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, political prisoners, religious clergy and ethnic nationalities.
As President Obama stated in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma -- there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression." Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom have all stated their support for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on Burma, and we must stand together with them and the people of Burma.
We appreciate your attention to this request and we look forward to hearing from you.
Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator
Judd Gregg, United States Senator
Richard Durbin, United States Senator
Jeff Bingaman, United States Senator
Barbara Boxer, United States Senator
Ron Wyden, United States Senator
Mark Udall, United States Senator
Ben Cardin, United States Senator
Jeff Merkley, United States Senator
Frank Lautenberg, United States Senator
Sherrod Brown, United States Senator
Joseph Lieberman, United States Senator
Barbara Mikulski , United States Senator
Sam Brownback, United States Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator
Robert Casey, United States Senator
Michael Bennet, United States Senator
George Voinovich, United States Senator
Sheldon Whitehouse, United States Senator
Charles Schumer, United States Senator
Russ Feingold, United States Senator
Bernard Sanders, United States Senator
Susan Collins, United States Senator
Kay Hagan, United States Senator
Tom Harkin, United States Senator
Richard Burr, United States Senator
Patrick Leahy, United States Senator
Amy Klobuchar, United States Senator
Al Franken, United States Senator
Patty Murray, United States Senator
Roland Burris, United States Senator
Robert Menendez, United States Senator