The IBA President, Akira Kawamura, and IBAHRI Programme Lawyer, Shirley Pouget, visited the United Nations in New York during the 2011 General Assembly (UNGA), on 17–21 October 2011 as part of the ongoing IBAHRI Justice for Burma advocacy programme. The IBA met with UN senior officials, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar (Burma), and numerous Permanent Missions to the UN, to discuss the forthcoming UNGA resolution on Burma, and principally, international justice and accountability in Burma. The IBA visit was timely, as the first meeting of the co-sponsors to the UN Resolution on Burma took place on Friday 21 October.
During meetings, the IBA reiterated the need for an impartial and independent investigation into allegations of international crimes, provided expert opinions on the language to be used within the resolution and called for circumspection with regard to recent political changes in Burma.
In the preceding months, Burma has made significant efforts to improve its international human rights profile, for example, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, was granted entry into the country for the first time since 2010, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest after 15 years in November 2010, was invited to meet with Burmese President Thein Sein. Many international observers, however, argue that the Burmese State is playing a ‘charm offensive’ to avoid international inquiries. On 5 September 2011 – the day that European Union states were due to discuss the inclusion of a provision to establish a commission of inquiry into the UN resolution – the newly elected Government established a national human rights commission, comprising 15 retired bureaucrats and academics. While positive steps should be acknowledged, the IBAHRI believes that careful analysis is required.
While In New York, the IBA met with ambassadors and legal counsel from the UK, the USA, Canada, Switzerland, France and Indonesia, who all welcomed the IBA’s expert opinion on the issues of justice and accountability in Burma. The IBA President and IBAHRI Programme Lawyer also engaged in an interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma at a closed-door meeting organised by the UN Burma Fund.
This visit is part of the IBAHRI advocacy programme on Burma and follows a briefing with EU diplomats held in Brussels in September 2011. The briefing aimed to provide expert opinion on the need for a UN Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma and to discuss the UNGA Resolution on Burma.
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