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1/3/03 - BURMA RAPES - 2003-01-03


The United States is appalled by reports that the Burmese military is using rape as a weapon against civilians in regions of the country where many members of ethnic minority groups live. The U.S. vehemently condemns rape and all other forms of sexual violence against civilians.

A U.S. State Department investigator recently spoke with victims who have been gang-raped and otherwise brutalized. Among them were a thirteen-year old girl, a woman who was seven months pregnant, and several elderly women. In addition to rapes, they told of torture and executions of family members.

The U.S. has expressed deep concern about these abuses to the Burmese regime and urged it to investigate fully any and all allegations of systematic rape of girls and women in Burma regardless of ethnicity -- and appropriately punish those guilty of such heinous crimes. The U.S. has also worked closely with other concerned nations to draft a resolution for the United Nations General Assembly that condemns human rights violations in Burma and calls for cooperation in an independent investigation of the rape charges and other abuses, wherever they occur. In addition, the U.S. has urged the U-N to undertake a serious investigation of the reports of systematic rape.

The reported rapes are the latest in a series of abuses that the Burmese military dictatorship has inflicted on the Burmese people. In May 1990, the Burmese people overwhelmingly voted to replace military rule with a civilian democracy. But the generals refused to relinquish power.

In May of 2002, in response to prodding by U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Burmese junta finally released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. But the generals never made good on their promise to initiate a dialogue with her party. The Burmese regime continues to ban press coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s activities and her supporters. And some one-thousand political prisoners remain in jail.

The Burmese regime must exercise command and control over its troops and hold them accountable for their actions. The U.S. continues to urge the Burmese regime to cooperate with an independent investigation and take concrete steps to punish those who may have acted in violation of domestic law, international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

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