March 3, 2010 / 9:25 PM / 8 years ago

Nobel winners push for Myanmar regime to face court

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rutha was pregnant when she was forced to serve as a porter at a military camp in Myanmar. There, she was raped nightly and her father killed when he refused to allow soldiers to take his 22-year-old daughter.

Rutha’s story was told to Nobel Peace Prize winners and rights campaigners, who meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday to push for Myanmar’s leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

“The soldiers raped me at night after I portered for them during the day,” said Rutha, whose family has since left Myanmar. “A soldier came to get me and took me to a room. I told him I was pregnant and begged him not to do any harm, but he did not listen. ... I could only cry.”

Rutha’s story was one of 12 heard by the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma, a panel formed by the Nobel Women’s Initiative -- a group created by six female Nobel Peace Prize Winners -- and the Women’s League of Burma.

Along with acts of sexual violence and forced labor, there were stories of imprisonment, torture and forced relocation.

The panel of Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Peace Prize for her work to ban land mines, Shirin Ebadi, who won the prize in 2003 for promoting rights in Iran, and rights campaigners Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand and Heisoo Shin of South Korea, said the world needs to increase pressure on Myanmar.

“Your searing testimonies of unimaginable brutalities, including sexual violence, break the silence on behalf of thousands upon thousands of Burmese women,” Williams told a news conference on Wednesday. “You all cry out for justice but have been met with impunity.”

Myanmar has signed international conventions and treaties but has consistently failed to honor pledges to improve its human rights record or carry out democratic reforms.

The Myanmar mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment.

MINORITIES PERSECUTED

Myanmar has long been the focus of global pressure for holding pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Rights groups say there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar, but the country’s regime says they are not political.

The Myanmar junta has also been accused of persecution of the country’s ethnic minorities, sparking a continuing exodus. Some 140,000 refugees live in camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The full list of recommendations made by the panel to Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Nations can be seen a www.nobelwomensinitiative.org.

Myanmar was formerly known as Burma and has been under military rule since 1962.

Another story heard by the panel was that of Chang Chang, who was 17 when she was practicing songs at a local karaoke shop with three of her friends and a group of soldiers forced them to leave and took them to a military base.

“They came in one by one to rape me. I begged the soldiers not to rape me and I pushed them back to protect myself. But, they forced themselves on me and took off my clothes and they raped me all night,” she said in a statement to the tribunal.

“It was very dark, so it was hard to know exactly how many soldiers raped us. I remembered seven of them. ... Seven raped me. There were many of them,” she said. “I could only cry.”

Editing by Todd Eastham

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