On Friday, February 4, 2011, Belgium became the 14th country to officially support a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
Belgium-based Actions Burmanie (Burma) welcomed the news, but added, “We regret that the EU has not yet taken an official position on the issue. A firm and collective position from the European democracies would be an unequivocal sign sent to the other member countries of the United Nations, with the idea of creating a consensus within the Security Council.” Belgium becomes the 10th country within the European Union to support the formation of a Commission of Inquiry, but the EU as a whole has not yet taken a collective stance on the matter.
In March of 2010, the current Special Rapporteur for Burma, Mr. Thomas Ojea Quintana, made the strongest yet recommendation to the UN institutions by a high representative. He called for the establishment of a UN-led Commission of Inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the questions of international crimes in Burma. In his report to the UN, he stated the scope and nature of systematic abuse by the Burmese military regime against civilians “involves authorities in the executive, military, and judiciary at all levels.” This is the first time in nearly 20 years of UN involvement in Burma that a UN official made a credible, meaningful and important recommendation to help change the human rights situation in Burma.
In light of Mr. Quintana’s recommendation, Australia and the UK became the first countries to publically state their support for the Commission of Inquiry in March 2010, followed shortly thereafter by the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Fall 2010 saw another slew of nations officially support the Commission, starting with the United States, followed by Hungary, New Zealand, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Lithuania, and Estonia in short order. Hopefully, Belgium will be the start of another series of statements of support from remaining EU countries.
Conversely, China has openly voiced support for the regime in Burma, and has stated that “pressure and sanctions of a political nature will not produce solutions.” However, there is hope if the countries supporting the Commission campaign for it as actively as China is campaigning against it.