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Crackdown on Burmese Muslims
Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper
July 2002
  (download PDF version - 12 pages)



Burma is obligated under international human rights law to protect the fundamental rights of all persons within its territory, including religious minority populations. The government must respect all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind such as race, language, religion, and national or social origin. This includes the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; and to manifest one's beliefs in practice, worship, and observance.

The SPDC should take immediate steps to end continuing harassment and persecution of Muslim communities. It should immediately lift all official restrictions on the freedom of Muslims to congregate in mosques, as well as restrictions on their ability to gather in groups for prayers in private homes. The government should eliminate requirements for special identity papers and lift travel restrictions on Muslims, both of which were rigidly enforced last year in order to keep Muslim communities in check.

The SPDC should also take effective action against those responsible for violence against Burmese Muslims. The authorities should fully investigate last year's attacks on Muslim shops and mosques and prosecute those responsible for such crimes as assault, arson, and looting. They should take steps to ensure that property, including mosques, destroyed during last year's violence is restored and losses fairly compensated. In locations such as Arakan State, where local army commanders reportedly ordered the destruction of mosques, those implicated should be prosecuted or otherwise disciplined. In instances when force is used by authorities against civilians, including lethal force, in the course of crowd control, the government should ensure that international standards and guidelines, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, are fully respected.

The international community should call on the Burmese government to allow Ambassador Razali and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, unrestricted access to all Muslims areas, including the sites of last year's violence, so that they can meet with local Muslim residents and community leaders and make recommendations for specific steps to protect the basic human rights of the country's Muslim population.