HM Treasury has again turned down a Freedom of Information request by Burma Campaign UK, asking for information on the value of assets frozen against 16 members of the Burmese military.
The asset freeze and visa ban are the only direct actions the British government has taken against the Burmese military in response to genocide of the Rohingya and crimes against humanity and war crimes against other ethnic groups. Burma Campaign UK believes that no assets have been frozen as a result of these sanctions, meaning the only sanction by the British government against the Burmese military is a toothless ban on 16 military personnel taking holidays in the UK.
HM Treasury makes two excuses for refusing to disclose the value of assets frozen. One is an EU regulation under which some of the people have been sanctioned, and the other is data protection rules.
It is not apparent in the text of the EU regulation exactly why the information cannot be released. Burma Campaign UK asked for an explanation as to how they interpret the regulation to prohibit disclosure but no specific explanation was provided. Nor was any clear explanation given as to HM Treasury releasing the value of assets frozen relating to other countries, and why that doesn’t break the EU regulation. The application of the rules appears arbitrary and inconsistent.
With regards to the release of information being prohibited by data protection laws, no explanation was provided as to why they do release aggregate data on some countries, but claim they cannot do the same regarding Burma. Again, the decision is inconsistent and appears arbitrary.
“Genocide is a serious international crime and it is clearly in the public interest to know what impact the British government response to genocide is having,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Given that the British government refuses to take any other action against the military, such as sanctioning military companies or joining the genocide case at the International Court of Justice, we have a right to know the impact of the only sanction against the Burmese military by the British government.”