Military Continues to Use Rape As a Weapon, WLB Says

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Sexual violence and torture continue to be perpetrated by the military in conflict areas throughout Burma, particularly against ethnic women, representatives of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said.

Lway Poe Nge, Joint Secretary 2 of the WLB, spoke on the issue in an online conference to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26.

“We highlight the issue of rape because the majority of women do not join in armed struggle, but women are raped in the armed conflict in ethnic regions. Some women are gang raped,” Lway Poe Nge said.

She added that the torture women in endure because of the civil war “is both physical and mental.”

Aung Zaw Oo, who is working with the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), said that rape has been well documented under previous regimes in Burma, and it continues under the current administration’s governance

“Civilians are targeted for torture. It has happened in conflict-affected ethnic regions,” he said. “For example, it happened in Karen State. It decreased in Karen State after the signing of a ceasefire agreement. Then it happened in Kachin State. It decreased in Kachin State. Later on, it happened in northern Shan State. Now it is increasing in Rakhine State.”

The WLB, ND-Burma, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), Vimutti Women’s Organizations (VWO) and Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) released a joint statement on the issue, describing sexual violence as a form of torture in conflict areas in ethnic states. It continues to be perpetrated, along with torture in detention centers and interrogation centers, often in an effort to force confessions or procure information.

The joint statement also said, “it is the government’s responsibility to stop and prevent torture in its jurisdiction, and to prosecute and punish those who commit it.”

“However, impunity still prevails and perpetrators remain unpunished,” the statement said.

Lway Poe Nge said that women’s organizations have documented “thousands” of cases, but despite the wide range of data available, courts have yet to deliver justice regarding these crimes.

Aung Zaw Oo said that villagers in Burma are still at risk of being detained by Burma Army soldiers if they are suspected of being linked to ethnic armed organizations.

“Villagers have been tortured by soldiers. They have never apologized to the victims,” he said. “Human rights abuses have occurred in the past, are occurring at the present, and will occur in the future. I think that if armed conflict continues to happen, human rights abuses will continue to happen, too.”

The five civil society organizations signatory to the statement have called for withdrawal of the army battalions stationed in ethnic areas and a halt to armed conflict, along with the prosecution and punishment of those who perpetrate torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations against civilians.

They also demanded that the government of Burma sign and ratify the UN Convention Against Torture and implement it through national legislation.