'The record of horrific human rights abuses by the military government of Burma is lengthy.' - James Clancy.
Ottawa (26 Aug. 2010) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is urging the Harper government to support the call for a United Nations (UN) commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
"The record of horrific human rights abuses by the military government of Burma is lengthy," NUPGE president James Clancy says in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"It includes the targeting of civilians, the destruction of more than 3,500 villages in Eastern Burma over the past 15 years, the use of rape as a weapon of war, torture and mutilations, arbitrary executions and slave labour."
Last March, the UN's special rapporteur on Burma reported the existence of "gross and systematic" abuses and a lack of action to stop them – "a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels."
"... 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," the report said. "UN institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes."
"Canada has historically taken a strong stand in support of promoting human rights and democracy in Burma," Clancy wrote to Harper.
"In addition, Canada enjoys a reputation for taking principled positions internationally in defense of human rights and humanitarian law. But, we note that it has been five months since the UN special rapporteur issued this report and Canada has yet to join the call for a UN inquiry."
Clancy says there is obviously "a great need" for as many countries as possible to call publicly for an inquiry and that Canada has an even greater obligation than most.
"I urge the Canadian government to do what is right and join Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in supporting a UN Commission of Inquiry," Clancy adds.
Meanwhile, Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) says 80 Canadian parliamentarians have given their support to petition calling for a commission of inquiry.
"This is an unprecedented level of support from Canadian parliamentarians and is far greater than any petitions on Burma in the past," the group says.
Canada is under growing pressure from other countries to take a clear public stand.
"In Europe, Burma Campaign UK and other concerned groups are planning to gather at Canadian Embassies to repeat their call.... It is quite uncomfortable to see Canada is lagging behind and dragging its feet on this issue despite the fact that it (is in) the position to play a leading role," the CFOB says.
The group is urging Canadians who have not already done so to contact the prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon to urge them to take an official stand on behalf of the Canadian government.
NUPGE strongly supports the CFOB and is calling its members and the public to add their voices by e-mailing both Harper and Cannon:
- E-mail Prime Minister Stephen Harper: email@example.com
- Call Prime Minister Harper's office: 613-992-4211
- E-mail Lawrence Cannon: Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca
MPs and senators who have not signed the list are being urged to get in touch with CFOB directly and add their names to the list.
- Contact: The Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), Suite 206, 145 Spruce St., Ottawa, K1R 6P1; Tel: 613.237.8056; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.cfob.org
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE