Min Thukha Aung – In order to achieve genuine democracy and national reconciliation, the Burmese government must assume accountability for past human rights violations while providing victims with justice and appropriate reparations, according to a new report released on July 7th by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM).

The 90-page report, entitled “In Pursuit of Justice: Reflections on the Past and Hopes for the Future of Burma,” describes the history of massive human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military, the Tatmadaw, throughout Burma’s ethnic minority areas.

HURFOM’s report analyzes various mechanisms of transitional justice that could be applied in Burma to heal the shattered relationship between the government and its citizens as well as rebuild trust among the people of Burma. It also emphasizes that appropriate mechanisms must be established regarding the specific needs and expectations of victims in order for the government to realize a peaceful and sustainable transition from dictatorship to democracy.

“In Pursuit of Justice” provides details about the decades of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military against its minority ethnic citizens, including forced labor; forcing people to serve as porters; unjust land seizures; torture; murder; and sexual abuse. Throughout its report, HURFOM states that its aim is to give human rights victims a louder voice. Today, as human rights violations continue unabated in ethnic areas, HURFOM believes it’s imperative that victims’ past grievances are recognized by the government and that people are protected from further human rights violations.

“Burmese soldiers torture and abuse local residents almost every month. We wanted upper level [military personnel] to know about this and want them to seek justice for us. Young people should not keep silent, but [must] help each other and raise awareness among the public. Even under the current government, torture and abuse are still ongoing, so everyone should participate in finding a solution and seeking justice,” Ye Township resident Nai Thein Thun was quoted as saying in the report.

In a press release, HURFOM program coordinator Nai Aue Mon stated that HURFOM released the report in order to “strengthen the voices of Burma’s victims. Talking about transitional justice at this point in time might be viewed as an obstacle to current reforms; however, there are tens of thousands of victims of past abuse who have been ignored by the government. The government refuses to accept accountability for past human rights violations, and failing to pursue accountability can weaken the rule of law and fuel the government’s culture of impunity. Thus, the government should at least acknowledge that its people have suffered from massive abuses.”

According to the HURFOM report, central to achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation in Burma “is the de-structuring of the [Burmese government’s] pervasive culture of impunity surrounding human rights violations against its citizens. If impunity, unaccountability, extortion, and corruption continue to exist there can be no repair of trust or unity in Burmese society. Without eliminating all impunity there will be no reconciliation in Burma.”

“In Pursuit of Justice” appeals to the government to provide justice and reparations to victims based on their needs. In the report, HURFOM provides recommendations on retributive and preventative actions that can be taken to combat extortion, corruption, sexual abuse, forced labor, and land confiscation, while calling on the government to safeguard ethnic communities from the exploitation that can be engendered by foreign direct investment.

In its report, HURFOM also urges the international community, NGOs, and donors to continue monitoring human rights abuses and take action to prevent future abuses. In addition, HURFOM calls upon ASEAN and its member countries to support victims and end human rights abuses by the Tatmadaw.

In HURFOM press release, Nai Aue Mon said that “through this report, HURFOM would like to suggest practical steps the Burmese government and the international community can take to initiate a process for potential reparation and reconciliation in Burma. By doing so, we can restore trust and equality between the people of Burma and the government, as well as establish the rule of law for Burma’s future.”

HURFOM was founded by Mon youths in 1995 “for the restoration of democracy, human rights, and genuine peace in Burma.” It’s a key member of the “Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma,” an umbrella group that was formed in 2004 and has 12 member organizations.

Link: http://www.bnionline.net/index.php/news/imna/17209-report-urges-govt-to-address-past-human-rights-abuses-and-act-on-victims-needs.html