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Harvard Report Calls for UN Investigation Into Burma Rights Abuses


A report from the prestigious Harvard Law School, located in the state of Massachusetts, says Burma's military-ruled government should be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report comes as the trial continues against detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Abuses are systematic, report says

The report released by Harvard's International Human Rights Clinic says there are indications human rights abuses in Burma are widespread, systematic, and part of state policy.

The report, titled "Crimes in Burma," says the abuses may qualify as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Based entirely on analysis of 15 years of United Nations' documents, the report notes sexual violence, forced displacements, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Comparisons to Darfur

Tyler Giannini is the clinical director of the human rights program at Harvard and an author of the report. He says the United Nations Security Council should investigate Burma just as it investigated similar abuses in former Yugoslavia and Darfur.

"The numbers of villages that were attacked and destroyed in Darfur are comparable to the number of villages in eastern Burma that have been destroyed," Giannini noted. "The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma has found that, based on reliable and independent sources, more than 3,000 villages since 1996 had been displaced or destroyed in eastern Burma. Those are very significant numbers."

Will UN Security Council act?

The report notes that UN bodies over the years have spoken out against Burma's abuses, but the UN Security Council has failed to move the process forward.

Five international jurists commissioned the report, some of whom served as prosecutors and judges at international criminal tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Burma's military leaders are under increasing international pressure as the trial continues against democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Giannini says the report is timely as the trial has once again brought attention to abuses inside Burma.

"In addition to the crackdown and the spurious charges against her, which bring further evidence of this military regime's practices and restrictions on fundamental freedoms of all its people, a study like this will highlight for the security council that in addition to the political issues in Burma there's also issues surrounding potential international criminal violations," he said.

Democracy leader's trial condemned

Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, where she has been kept for most of the last 19 years, and could be sentenced to five years in prison.

The charges have been widely condemned as an excuse to keep the Nobel Peace Prize winner locked up.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won Burma's last elections in 1990, but the military ignored the results and put her under house arrest.

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