New Delhi (Mizzima) – A “People’s Court” in Japan passed its verdict on Monday to put the Burmese military regime on trial at the International Criminal Court for its crimes against women in Burma.
The verdict was reached during a mock trial at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, after a five-member panel of experienced judges heard the testimony of four victims from Burma and arguments from prosecution and defence counsels.
“The judges passed eight verdicts during the court’s session, including their finding that the [Burmese] military regime was guilty of committing crimes against women based on the testimonies given by victims and that it should be put on trial at the ICC,” Women’s League of Burma presidium board member Thin Thin Aung told Mizzima.
The panel comprised Japanese former Supreme Court justice Kunio Hamada, Chiba University law professor Hiroko Goto, Aoyama Gakuin University law professor Osamu Niikura, International Association of Democratic Lawyers secretary-general Miho Shikita, Japan Federation of Bar Associations former vice-president Hideaki Kobori.
The United Nations was urged to form a commission to investigate the junta’s crimes and said the international community including Japan should make concerted efforts to stop their heinous acts, the verdicts say Kyi Kyi Khin, Pu Sein, Tin Tin Nyo from WLB on behalf of Naw Sunset and WLB representative Mra Yar Zar Lin testified during proceedings between 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Eight lawyers acted for the prosecution and three conducted the junta’s defence.
“I testified … telling them [the judges] how I was put in a dark cell during interrogation by intelligence officers and of the other gross human rights violations in prison I experienced while serving my sentence”, former political prisoner Kyi Kyi Khin said.
The military regime arrested former NLD party and All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) members in 1990 for distributing pamphlets commemorating the July 7 massacre at Rangoon University in 1962. For 28 days Kyi Kyi Khin suffered brutality under questioning at the Military Intelligence No. 4 detention centre, where she was held in darkness and subjected to a variety of cruel and unusual torture methods. She was then sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and was released in May 1992.
The mock trial’s organiser, Cho Cho Aye, said Japanese lawyers representing the military regime presented their arguments for their clients’ defence. Cho Cho Aye is representative of the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU) Japanese branch.
“The defence counsels questioned the testimony, evidence and exhibits presented in court [by the prosecution,” she said. “In cross-examination, they also questioned whether [junta chief Senior General] Than Shwe was responsible for the crimes committed by the army’s rank and file.”
The proceedings were the first mock trial in a People’s Court conducted in Japan, which was also organised by Japan-based Human Rights Now. More than 300 Japanese and Burmese attended.
A similar trial was organised by the WLB and female Nobel laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative in New York in early March. At that trial, 12 Burmese victims of human rights violations testified to crimes visited upon them by the military junta.
“We shall continue our campaign in the international community until we can put the Burmese regime on trial at the ICC,” Thin Thin Aung said. “This campaign can … warn the junta leaders against committing their crimes against humanity in fear of facing trial at the ICC in future.”
ICC, founded in July 1998 and based in the Netherlands, is funded by states’ parties, international governments and organisations, and individuals. It is the main independent international legal body “established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community”.
The court usually indicts and presents verdicts on genocide committed across the world, along with serious international crimes, crimes against humanity and war crimes, by exercising powers granted it under the Rome Statute, the treaty signed by the parties that established the court.
The trial’s organisers will present the panel’s verdicts to the Japanese government and will urge it to shun the Burmese general election results unless the regime releases all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held under house arrest by the junta on spurious charges. She has been held in various forms of detention for 15 of the past 21 years.
The trial follows UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana’s report to the UN Security Council, which similarly called for the UN to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed by the junta.