For Immediate Release
Geneva, Switzerland — January 19, 2010 — 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.”
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.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.