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China halts Burma war crimes inquiry

Posted by Author on October 27, 2010

Colum Lynch, WASHINGTON POST, Washington, Via  The Age, October 27, 2010 –

A DIPLOMATIC campaign by the Chinese government appears to have thwarted the Obama administration’s plan for an international probe into possible war crimes by Burma’s military rulers.

The US initiative was designed to raise the political costs to Burma’s junta for failing to open its November 7 elections to the country’s opposition.

But a senior US official was pessimistic about securing international support for a probe and made it clear Washington had no immediate plans to introduce such a proposal.
The Burmese junta has detained more than 2100 political prisoners, many of whom have endured torture, inadequate medical care and even death. The military has also imposed abuses on ethnic minorities, including the forced relocation of villages, forced labour and systematic human rights abuses, including rape.

”There is a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights which has been in place for many years and still continues,” the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, wrote in a March report.

He said such crimes could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The US outlined its plan to support Mr Quintana’s appeal for a war crimes inquiry against senior officials in August interviews with Foreign Policy magazine and The Washington Post. At the time, a senior US official said the effort could take years, comparing it with the decades-long struggle to pursue Khmer Rouge leaders.

But just days after the US signalled support for the war crimes commission, China’s UN ambassador, Li Baodong, paid a confidential visit to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to make his opposition clear on the grounds that it could undermine Burma’s fragile political transition.

Liu Yutong, a spokesman for the Chinese mission at the UN, did not respond to a request for comment.

Tom Malinowski, the Washington-based director of advocacy for Human Rights Watch said: ”What we are seeing is the Chinese practising American-style diplomacy and the Americans practising Asian-style diplomacy.

”The Chinese are making it clear what they want, and they are using all the leverage at their disposal to get what they want.”

The Age

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