A report by the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, has found the Burma Army guilty of ‘war crimes’ constituting ‘crimes against humanity’ in Karen State.
The result of a four-year investigation, the report said there was ample evidence of government forces committing human rights abuses including the torture, rape and executions of civilians during a three year military offensive in that part of the country, from 2005-2008.
The Harvard report specifically noted that at least three top military commanders were implicated in the human rights abuses. The three commanders were named as Major General Ko Ko, who is currently the country’s Minister of Home Affairs; Brigadier General Maung Maung Aye, leader of the 66th Light Infantry Division and Brigadier General Khin Zaw Oo, who is currently the commander of the Burma Army’s Bureau of Special Operations.
“Based on evidence gathered during its investigation, the Clinic has concluded that [Burma] Army personnel from Southern Command and LID 66 committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, as defined by Articles 7 and 8, respectively, of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” the report said.
Welcoming the report was a host of local and international Karen community organisations who are calling for action to be taken under international law.
“We need a system of transitional justice. We cannot move forward by ignoring our past. Those that suffered at these men’s orders must know the truth and see justice. Their mothers deserve nothing less.” Naw K’nyaw Paw, Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation, said in a statement to the press.
“We know there are many more commanders and soldiers who are guilty of similar conduct. We believe that in order to gain a peaceful and democratic Burma these men and others like them must be held accountable,” the statement went on to say, “It would be unimaginable for these people to remain in their posts in a genuine democracy.”
The Karen community based organisations said that, while Burma had seen democratic changes, true political reform would require an United Nations led inquiry into human rights abuses committed by members of the government.
The Karen organisations that issued the statement included groups from the United States, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and from inside Burma. Naw Zipporah Sein, Vice-President of the Karen National Union, also added her name to the statement.