U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), co-chairs of the U.S. Senate Women's Caucus on Burma, today urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to call on the Burmese regime to end the practice of rape as a weapon of war and work to establish an international Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The senators wrote, "Given the Burmese regime's unabated use of rape as a weapon of war, we urge you to call on the regime to end this practice and pursue our shared goal of establishing an international Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity."
Also signing the letter: Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
Following is the text of the letter to Secretary Clinton:
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madame Secretary:
We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent reports of the use of rape as a weapon of war in the renewed armed conflict between the Burmese military and former ethnic minority ceasefire groups.
According to the Kachin Women's Association Thailand, 18 Kachin women and girls were gang-raped by Burmese soldiers during the first eight days of renewed fighting between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army after the end of a 17 year ceasefire. Four of these victims were also killed. Similar reports have also emerged from Northern Shan State where the Burmese army has attacked the Shan State Army - North ending a 22 year ceasefire. The Shan Women's Action Network continues to document the ongoing sexual violence against civilians, including a recent horrific account of four women being raped in one village in a single day.
On May 23, 2011, Burma's democracy leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said:
"Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to live in peace, who only want to assert their basic human rights, especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities. Rape is rife. It is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country. This is how I see it. Every case of rape divides our country. Every case of rape divides our country between peoples, between genders, between the armed forces and ordinary citizens, between ethnic nationalities. So, we must do everything we can to put an end to this." (Video message to the Nobel Women's Initiative's conference "Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict")
We could not agree more. Given the Burmese regime's unabated use of rape as a weapon of war, we urge you to call on the regime to end this practice and pursue our shared goal of establishing an international Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Last month in her testimony before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called upon the United States Government to do everything we can to aid in the establishment of a commission of inquiry: "[UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma] Professor Quintana has spoken of the need for a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Burma. I support his call for such a commission... It is simply a commission of inquiry to find out what human rights violations have taken place and what we can do to ensure that such violations do not take place in the future. I would appreciate everything that is done to help Professor Quintana in his work. Because, unless we respect the work of the Human Rights Rapporteur, I do not think we will be able to make much progress towards the implementation of the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council."
We must not allow this regime to continue to commit such dire crimes while the people of Burma continue to suffer. As members of the Senate Women's Caucus on Burma, we express our solidarity with our friend and sister, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and express our deep commitment to the struggle for freedom and justice in Burma. We appreciate your attention to this request and look forward to hearing from you.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Olympia J. Snowe