First Widespread Survey of Burma’s Chin State Shows Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Megan Prock
Senior Press Officer
mprock [at] phrusa [dot] org
Tel: (617) 301-4237

First Widespread Survey of Burma’s Chin State Shows Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity

GENEVA - Physicians
for Human Rights (PHR) today announced findings from the first population-based
survey to document human rights violations in all nine townships of Chin State.
The report, Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State, provides the first quantitative data of human rights
violations against the people of Chin State in Western Burma. The report also
reveals that at least eight of the violations surveyed fall within the purview
of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and may constitute crimes against
humanity.

“It is well known around the world that the people of Burma,
especially ethnic nationalities like the people of Chin State, suffer under the
junta, but until now the international community has not had any quantitative
data from Western Burma to support this claim,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of
Physicians for Human Rights. “The data don’t lie and this report puts in stark
light the horrors that the Chin people are enduring. No nation has the right to
oppress its people, but to the extent that we abandon those people, we allow
the crimes to continue.”

The research revealed widespread
reports of human rights violations among 621
randomly selected households during the 12 months prior to interviews.
The abuses included forced labor, religious persecution, beatings,
killing, disappearances, torture, rape and widespread pillaging. Key
findings
include:

  • Nearly 92 percent of the households interviewed
    reported at least one episode of forced labor, such as portering of
    military supplies or building roads.
  • Government authorities, primarily soldiers, committed
    more than 98 percent of the abuses.
  • Overall, 1,768 of the most severe abuses were
    reported across all nine townships of Chin State.

“The approach used by the investigators
lets us see the widespread and systematic nature of these abuses and the
results are devastating,” said Desmond M. Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize
laureate and Anglican
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town. “This report embodies the voices of Chin survivors of these
atrocities and lets us hear an enslaved and brutalized population asking for
assistance in the struggle for justice, for freedom, and for life itself.”

Additionally, the PHR report, which includes a foreword by Justice Richard Goldstone and Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, catalogues human rights violations that may
constitute crimes against humanity. Although other researchers have posited
that a prima facie case exists for
crimes against humanity in Burma, the current study provides the first
quantitative data on these alleged crimes.

“This report reveals extraordinary levels
of state and military violence against civilian populations, and many of the
violations that we surveyed may constitute crimes against humanity,” said
Richard Sollom, Deputy Director at PHR. “These findings demand not only attention, but action by all
who are concerned with Burma’s peoples, their well-being, and Burma’s future.”

For
acts to be investigated by the ICC as crimes against humanity, three common elements
must be established:

  • Prohibited acts took place after July 1, 2002 when
    the ICC treaty entered into force.
  • Such acts were committed by government authorities as
    part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian
    population.
  • The perpetrator intended or knew that the conduct was
    part of the attack.

The
research demonstrates that the human rights violations surveyed in Chin State
meet these necessary elements.

“It is unconscionable that suffering as
dire as that of the Chin people under Burma’s dictator­ship should be allowed
to persist in silence,” said former U.N. Chief Prosecutor Richard
J. Goldstone. “We urge the
United Nations to immediately establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes
against humanity in Chin State, and in all of Burma.”

Methodology

PHR’s research team consulted with 32 key informants and
representatives from Chin civil society to conduct the survey. From February to
March 2010, surveyors performed a multi-stage, 90-cluster sample survey of 702
households – 621 of which gave consent to participate – in all nine townships
in Chin State. They used an 87-question survey translated into five regional
languages and asked heads of household about their life under the junta during
the past 12 months.

About the Report

The findings of this report are part of an ongoing project
to investigate and document the nature and extent of human rights abuses in
Burma by PHR in collaboration with the Center for Public Health and Human
Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Additionally, PHR is indebted to five Chin
community-based organizations, including the Chin Human Rights Organization,
for their collaboration, expertise, and tireless advocacy on behalf of the Chin
people, without which this research would not be possible.

###

PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.

Share This Article

More in: