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For Immediate Release

Easing of Sanctions on Burmese Imports Does Little to Improve Human Rights There

Cambridge, MA - 11/16/2012

As expected, the Obama administration today suspended the US ban on imports from Burma, just days before President Obama’s historic visit to that country. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is disappointed that the decision was not coupled to a requirement for proper safeguards to protect human rights.

“Lifting the import ban removes yet another tool that the US government could have used to continue pressuring the Burmese government to ensure that political, social, and economic reforms under way in that country extend to embrace all its people,” said Donna McKay, Executive Director of PHR. “While Burma’s situation has indeed improved, too many of its citizens continue to face egregious human rights abuses on a regular basis, and unregulated economic development is likely to make the situation even worse.”

PHR had urged the administration not to ease economic sanctions without first pressing the Burmese government to end widespread violence against ethnic minorities, increase humanitarian access to conflict zones, and establish accountability mechanisms for human rights violations.

Together with other human rights groups, PHR had also encouraged the administration to consult with civil society actors in Burma (pdf) about their views on US sanctions. The rights groups concerns are summarized in a joint letter sent yesterday to President Obama.

PHR is pleased that the ban on imported gems remains in place, and encourages President Obama to engage with Burma’s leaders during his visit on issues that continue to infringe on the liberty and well-being of many of the country’s ethnic minorities.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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