Sub-Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection
Agenda items 15, 16
International Educational Development welcomes the commitment of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery to the issue of war-rape victims of Japan during World War II. We especially agree with recommendation 11 (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/28 p. 28) that the government of Japan should establish an administrative tribunal by which war-rape victims may receive adequate compensation directly from the Japanese government. This recommendation duplicates the recommendation made by this speaker in her article Compensation for Japan's World War II War Rape Victims published by the University of California Hastings College of Law in 1994 and in her earlier 1993 report for IED. We urge similar attention for apology and compensation for the forced labourers, mainly Korean, who lived and toiled under the most abominable conditions.
SLAVE PORTERAGE IN BURMA
IED is gravely concerned by slave porterage in Burma. Under that system, men, women and children, primarily of ethnic nationalities in Burma, are forced to labour on roads, railroads, and other construction projects as well as to carry military materiel and other goods essential to the armed forces of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The tragic irony of this practice is that people are made to carry the very arms that the regime uses against them in battle.
Some slave porters receive some minimal food; most less than subsistence food. SLORC either runs them until they drop dead or lets them go when they are nearly dead so that they can regain sufficient strength for another term as porter. Many porters are permanently disabled due to relocated shoulders from the heavy loads, severe lacerations from straps and whips, hip- displacements and other indices of prolonged physical toil with grossly inadequate diets.
SLORC is currently targeting Karen and Karenni peoples to be porters. In testimony taken on 6 June 1995, a Karen victim said:
Now the Burmese are demanding porters. One person from each house must go . . .otherwise they would burn down our village. . .I don't remember how many times they beat me, but until I was blue in many places. They used a heavy length of bamboo . . .We had to carry the soldiers rucksacks but we hadn't eaten any food, so we were very tired because they were very heavy. . . I was so tired, and I decided "No, I don't want to go. If I die now, it its alright."
The only way to avoid porter duty is to pay porter fees -- usually 2500 kyat -- a huge sum for village peasants.
The Karenni people are now suffering from renewed military action against them and by a new wave of abductions for slave portering and collection of portering fees. This is in spite of a March 21, 1995 cease-fire agreement between the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and SLORC signed in Loikaw, Karenni that provided, inter alia:
-- the then-existing military situation in both SLORC and KNPP designated areas would be maintained;
-- there would be a stop to portering in the whole of Karenni;
-- there would be no more collection of portering fees in Karenni.
On June 15, 1995 SLORC began collecting porter fees in the SLORC- designated area, began forcibly recruiting porters and requisitioning horses and tractors. SLORC now has about 5000 troops in the KNPP-designated area. Those Karenni that have not been forcibly made into porters have fled to the already teeming camps in Thailand.
We have provided the Commission's Special Rapporteur on Burma with full information on this current crisis. His excellent reports have highlighted the slave porterage situation and in his latest report, he cites the International Labour Organization finding of 7 November 1994 that slave porterage in Burma is in violation of the Forced Labour Convention. (See E/CN.4/1995/65 at paras. 124 - 127). But we are convinced that the Sub-Commission can usefully contribute by condemning the SLORC regime for these clear instances of war-time slavery which violates the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and all customary humanitarian law norms. The Sub-Commission should be especially harsh in its condemnation because slavery is identified in article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Civilians) as a war crime.
CHILD VICTIMS OF WAR
Child war victims are the most tragic consequences of war. Despite the many international instruments on the rights of the child, children continue to suffer extreme consequences from the wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Children are dying of hunger, are killed by military operations, are wounded and injured and suffer mental disorders. It is estimated that 14,000 children have died in Sarajevo alone. In the war in Croatia up to the recent events, more than 250 children were killed. Many, many children in all the areas are permanently disabled. Many more will become permanently disabled because of the many land mines -- 3,000,000 of which are alleged to be planted in Croatia alone.
The breakdown of family structure due to the conflicts have generated severe mental breakdown in children. Many children from 12-14 years old are now heads of families with responsibilities far beyond their years, especially since the wars create insurmountable burdens on even adults. In Croatia, 4273 children had lost one parent before the recent events. The figure is undoubtably higher now. Some children have lost both parents to the wars.
A number of children have also been captured as prisoners of war, taken with one or both parents to camps. Those in Serbian camps are not registered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and we fear they may have been executed. Eye-witnesses to the recent military operations in Srebrenca and Zepa report many boys 14- 17 were part of the over 7000 captured, of which most were executed in the outskirts of town.
Those not directly effected by military horrors suffer deep scars from drastically altered lives: separations; shortages of essentials, social structures, family support mechanisms; not to mention nutritional deficiencies and the stress of living with stress-effected adults. Effects include loss of self-esteem, sleep disturbances, lack of attention, speech and eating disorders and the like. Bosnian children have essentially no schooling. In Croatia, rehabilitation facilities for children with disabilities were destroyed, as were 29 children's health centers, 16 children's hospitals and 14 other health care facilities.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion
IED hopes that the new procedures for human rights and disability will be a useful mechanism to address the tragic situation of child war victims. We encourage the Sub-Commission to maintain its review of children and youth in order to develop an information base for use by aid providers and international planners. We also encourage the Sub-Commission to urge that all states ratify and enforce the Convention on the Rights of the Child.