-- For immediate release to media --
March 3, 2010, 10 am EST
International Tribunal on Burma Calls for End to Impunity of Military Regime
(New York) Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams - along with human rights experts Dr. Heisoo Shin (Korea) and Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand) - today released the findings and recommendations developed during the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma held this week in New York City. The quasi-legal event featured compelling testimony - the first ever - of 12 women from Burma who have suffered rape, torture, and other crimes at the hands of the military junta. The event highlighted the egregious human rights crimes, including rape as a weapon of war, and called for policymakers to demand a last resort: the International Criminal Court.
"Women should no longer be invisible when crimes are committed against them with impunity," said Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. "The history of violence and oppression of women in Burma is long and sordid--and must come to an end."
A few of the women who testified are colleagues of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition, still under house arrest and a prisoner of General Than Shwe. Than Shwe is the war criminal who has reigned terror over the people of Burma for decades. World leaders have rallied in support of her freedom countless times since her Nobel Peace Prize award in 1991, passing UN resolutions almost annually and demanding the release of her and other political prisoners. But these cries have fallen on deaf ears, with the international community failing to hold General Shwe and his cronies criminally responsible. The resulting impunity has given the ruling generals of Burma even more license to escalate their power and continue to inflict violence on the people of Burma.
"We live in globalized world, which means that Burma cannot do whatever it wants to its people within its own walls," said Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. "Globalization is effective when it helps bring an end to injustice. The international community cannot stand by and let other countries to use their sovereignty to commit atrocities against their own people."
The purpose of the Tribunal was to spotlight the oppression of women of Burma in order to encourage policymakers and political leaders to take specific action now. There has never been a call to refer Burma to the International Criminal Court. The women Nobel Laureates have joined with the Women's League of Burma to highlight the systemic use of rape and other forms of violence against ethnic women in Burma. The Women's League of Burma is an umbrella organization comprising thirteen women's organizations of different ethnic backgrounds in Burma.
The women who testified now live in Thailand, Bangladesh, the US and Canada and traveled to New York to tell their personal stories and those of their families. Their stories include a range of horrific human rights violations and crimes. Testimony was organized into three categories: violence against women (rape, sexual violence, trafficking), civil and political violations (torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment), and social, economic and cultural violations (forced labor, portering, relocation). Violence against women in Burma is often ethnically motivated, particularly minority groups such as the Karen who have been brutally persecuted by the military regim