Burma's military accused of torture in Kachin conflict

Burma's military has been accused of using torture against those allegedly working with rebels in Kachin state.

ABC

The Asian Human Rights Commission says the Burmese military and police are routinely using torture against people they accuse of working with the rebel Kachin Independence Army.

The Hong Kong-based human rights group says it's collected evidence of 36 cases of torture, arbitrary detention and extortion carried out last year in the states of Kachin and northern Shan where the Kachin Independence Army is waging a civil war with government forces.

In some cases, it's alleged men have become deaf as a result of being beaten, have become mental unsound following torture and have been left permanently scarred from cuts and burns.

The acting executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Bijo Francis, told Radio Australia's program that authorities are prosecuting people under a century-old law which makes it illegal to have contact with groups the Government identifies as 'unlawful'.

"People who the military or the law enforcement agencies in Kachin state accuse of being involved in any kind of anti-state activities are arbitrarily arrested, detained, tortured and confession statements extracted," Mr Francis said.

"They are held to be criminals and they're sentenced for punishment without any kind of proof and without any proper procedures."

Mr Francis says authorities aren't held accountable by any investigative authority so are able to use confessions extracted under torture to prosecute alleged criminals.

"All forms of brutal misuse of power and all forms of brutal torture is employed against the suspects and there's no way by which legally or procedurally where these people can be held accountable," he said.

Testimonies of torture

The Asian Human Rights Commission has compiled a 69-page dossier outlining the alleged cases of torture using information from independent human rights defenders in Burma.

It includes testimonies from the families of those accused, summaries of their cases and interviews with lawyers.

The rights group hopes it'll draw attention to what it says are the links between abuses on the battlefield and institutionalised abuse of the police, courts and administrative agencies in the country.

Violence flares

Renewed fighting broke out in Kachin state on Tuesday morning, leading the President to call for a ceasefire.

Mr Francis says they have received further reports of state authorities using torture against those accused of working with the rebel Kachin Independence Army.

"What we see today is that the route of the state is enforced by use of force and fear and there is no legal or any other accepted means by which these can be checked at the moment in Burma," he said.

Mr Francis says the government must overhaul the way in which the law is enforced and justice is carried out to ensure people receive fair trials to ensure people receive fair treatment from the police and the courts.

Child soldiers

Meanwhile, an international rights group is calling for renewed efforts to release Burmese child soldiers after reports the Government is using underage fighters in the conflict in Kachin State.

The London-based organisation Child Soldiers International says it's also likely the Kachin Independence Army is using child soldiers as well.

Since the government signed a Joint Action Plan on the issue in June last year, 42 child soldiers have been released from government forces.

But campaigners say more needs to be done.

The Asia Program Manager with Child Soldiers International, Charu Lata Hogg, has told Radio Australia's program that measures need to be put in place to prevent the future recruitment of child soldiers.

"The kind of process that was established by the Myanmar military in relieving the 42 children - there was a process of identifying and verifying their ages," she said.

"Now this process should be implemented in their recruitment procedures as well so that in the long term this becomes a preventative agenda and not just merely a reactive agenda."

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