Saturday, July 31, 2010

Letter to Secretary of State Clinton - Support a UN-led Commission of Inquiry on Burma

Commission of Inquiry on Burma, July 30, 2010

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

We write to urge you to support the establishment of a United Nations Commission of
Inquiry to investigate whether crimes against humanity and war crimes took place in
Burma. While your administration continues along a path of sanctions and pragmatic
engagement with Burma, we believe that such a commission will help convince Burma’s
military regime that we are serious about our commitment to democracy, human rights, and
the rule of law for the people of Burma.

At the 13th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, UN Special
Rapporteur for the Human Rights Situation in Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, released his
latest report and urged the United Nations “to consider the possibility to establish a
commission of inquiry with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of
international crimes” in Burma.

The Special Rapporteur argued that: “[g]iven the gross and systematic nature of human
rights violations in Myanmar over a period of many years, and the lack of accountability,
there is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that
involves authorities in the executive, military, and judiciary at all levels.” Mr. Quintana
further stated that “[a]ccording to consistent reports, 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 Statue of the International Criminal Court.”

We appreciate the comments made by Douglas Griffiths, US Charge d’Affaires at US
Mission to the UN in Geneva, in response to the report that “[t]his recommendation serves to
underscore the seriousness of the human rights problems in the country and the pressing
need for the international community to find an effective way to address challenges there.”
Indeed, a number of reports have documented a consistent pattern of human rights abuses by
the regime in Burma which must be addressed: the use of child soldiers, the destruction of
villages and the displacement of ethnic minorities, the use of rape as a weapon of war,
extrajudicial killings, forced relocation, and forced labor.

These abuses have been exacerbated by the regime’s intention to hold elections in 2010
based on a constitution which disallows the full participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the
National League for Democracy, political prisoners, religious clergy and ethnic nationalities.

As President Obama stated in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “When there is
genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma — there must be
consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the
choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.” Both the Australian and
British governments have both stated their support for the establishment of a Commission of
Inquiry on Burma, and we must stand together with them and the people of Burma.

We appreciate your attention to this request and we look forward to hearing from you.


Senator Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Boxer (D-CA)
Senator Gregg (R-NH)
Senator Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Bingaman (D-NM)
Senator Wyden (D-OR)
Senator Udall (D-CO)
Senator Cardin (D-MD)
Senator Brownback (R-KS)
Senator Merkley (D-OR)
Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Senator Brown (D-OH)
Senator Lieberman (ID-CT)
Senator Mikulski (D-MD)
Senator Gillibrand (D-NY)
Senator Casey (D-PA)
Senator Bennet (D-CO)
Senator Voinovich (R-OH)
Senator Whitehouse (D-RI)
Senator Schumer (D-NY)
Senator Feingold (D-WI)
Senator Collins (R-ME)
Senator Sanders (I-VT)
Senator Hagan (D-NC)
Senator Harkin (D-IA)
Senator Murray (D-WA)
Senator Franken (D-MN)
Senator Burr (R-NC)
Senator Burris (D-IL)
Senator Klobuchar (D-MN)
Senator Leahy (D-VT)
Senator Menendez (D-NJ)