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90+ Organizations Urge a Rohingya Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide Determination

August 10th, 2021  •  Author: 95 Organizations  •  7 minute read
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The Honorable Antony Blinken
U.S. Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We, the undersigned organizations, write to urge you to publicly determine that the state of Myanmar has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people. We welcomed your launch of a process earlier this year to make such an official determination. Now, several months later, as the fourth anniversary of the brutal campaign against the Rohingya approaches – and with the ongoing risk of further atrocities – we urge you to publicly announce your determination and to refer to the crimes by their proper name: crimes against humanity and genocide.

The February 1st coup by the same military that perpetrated abuses against the Rohingya, and the ongoing abuses by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya, other ethnic groups, and the Burmese population in general, only underscore the importance of recognizing the military’s past crimes against the Rohingya for what they are. We have welcomed your attention to the coup and the sanctions measures you have imposed on those responsible. While the coup does not impact the factual and legal basis for a possible genocide determination, it does underscore the importance of the United States speaking forthrightly about gross abuses of human rights when they occur. Such action is critical in sending signals to governments and the Myanmar military, that abusers will be held accountable. Such signals also play a critical role in deterring further abuses.

In the case of the Rohingya, the evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity is clear and convincing and has been amply documented. As prominent legal and human rights experts, including former high-level State Department and White House officials (two of whom are now serving in senior positions in the Biden administration), concluded in a letter in August 2020 [attached]:

“[We] believe the information and assessments produced so far compels the United States, in its capacity as a government and not as a court, to publicly express its view that genocide has been committed and may be continuing against the Rohingya of Myanmar.”

The military coup places an increased urgency on this request as the last trappings of democratic restraints on the military are pulled away. The military’s actions are already greatly exacerbating the COVID pandemic and a growing humanitarian crisis. A U.S. government determination of genocide and crimes against humanity would subject Myanmar and its military to much needed international scrutiny at a time of increased risk of atrocities against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups including the Chin, Karen, Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan, as well as against the population of Myanmar as a whole, who have been targeted for opposing the coup. Such a determination would also be useful in exposing atrocities and preserving the truth ahead of any future transitional justice actions. A Rohingya genocide determination would in no way preclude further atrocity determinations regarding abuses committed by the military against other ethnic groups or others. Rather, it would demonstrate a commitment to evidence-based accountability as the struggle for a truly inclusive and representative democratic Myanmar continues.

A determination would also help to ensure continued international attention on the plight of the Rohingya, while enabling the United States to mobilize additional diplomatic and economic pressure on Myanmar to shift its behavior. This attention could offer a measure of protection for the Rohingya and others in Myanmar. It would also represent an expression of solidarity with the governments of Bangladesh and other refugee hosting countries, signaling the United States is committed both to accountability and supporting conditions for safe and voluntary return when conditions so permit.

Such a determination would be wholly consistent with findings of the Department of State, which concluded that the attacks on the Rohingya were “well-planned and coordinated” and that they were “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents.” The law group engaged by the State Department to investigate atrocities against the Rohingya conducted its own legal analysis and found reasonable grounds to believe that genocide was committed. Several other independent groups have reached similar conclusions including Refugees International, the International State Crime Initiative, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Fortify Rights in collaboration with Covington & Burling LLP. The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to recognize that “atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese military and security forces since August 2017 constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.” A UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission similarly found “a pattern of conduct that infers genocidal intent on the part of the State to destroy the Rohingya, in whole or in part, as a group.” The Fact-Finding Mission has further warned, “The State of Myanmar continues to harbour genocidal intent and the Rohingya remain under serious risk of genocide.”

Now is the time to use the words that fit the crimes. U.S. leadership matters. We call upon you to demonstrate the moral leadership and courage necessary to push global action in the face of genocide.

Again, we welcome your review and urge you to finalize it quickly. Should you have any questions, please feel free to be in touch with Daniel Sullivan (daniel@refugeesinternational.org).

Sincerely,

1.      21Wilberforce

2.     Action Corps

3.     ALTSEAN-Burma

4.     American Baptist Churches USA

5.     Americans for Rohingya

6.     Arakan Institute for Peace and Human Rights

7.     Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

8.     Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights

9.     Arakan Rohingya Union

10.   Baptist World Alliance

11.    Bethany Christian Service

12.   British Rohingya Community in UK

13.   Burma Campaign UK

14.   Burma Human Rights Network

15.   Burma Rohingya Organization UK

16.   Burma Task Force

17.   Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan

18.   Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark

19.   Campaign for a New Myanmar

20. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization

21.   Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

22.  Cantors’ Assembly

23.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide

24.  Coalition for Genocide Response

25. Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention

26. Dallas Karen Baptist Church

27.  Darfur and Beyond

28.  Darfur Women Action Group

29. DFW Karen Baptist Church

30.  European Rohingya Council

31.   Fortify Rights

32.  Genocide Watch

33.  Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

34.  Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)

35.  Global Witness

36.  HIAS

37.  Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

38.  Human Rights Development for Myanmar

39.  Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council

40.  Institute for Asian Democracy

41.   Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP) at Binghamton University

42.  International Campaign for the Rohingya

43.  International Interfaith Peace Corps

44.  International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), Queen Mary University of London

45.  Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

46.  Jewish Rohingya Justice Network

47.  Jewish World Watch

48.  Justice for All

49.  Justice4Rohingya UK

50. Kachin Alliance

51.   Karen American Association of Wisconsin

52. Karen Association of Huron, South Dakota

53.  Karen Organization of America

54.  Karenni-American Association

55. Karen Community of Iowa

56. Karen Community of Kansas City (KS & MO)

57.  Karen Community of Minnesota

58.  Karen Organization of Minnesota

59. L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty

60. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

61.   Never Again Coalition

62. No Business With Genocide

63.  Partners Relief and Development

64.  Progressive Voice

65. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

66. Queensland Rohingya Community Inc

67.  Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

68.  Refugee Congress

69. Refugees International

70.  Rhode Island Board of Rabbis

71.   Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

72.  Rock Island Karen Community

73.  Rohingya Action Ireland

74.  Rohingya American Society

75.  Rohingya Human Rights Monitoring Network

76.  Rohingya Initiative Canada

77.  Rohingya Post

78.  Rohingya Refugee Network

79.  Rohingya Society in Malaysia

80. Rohingya Student Union

81.   Rohingya Women’s Empowerment and Advocacy Network

82.  Rohingya Youth for Legal Action

83.  RohingyaKhobor

84.  Society for Humanistic Judaism

85.  STAND: The student-led movement to end mass atrocities

86.  The Burmese Rohingya Association of North America

87.  The Sound of Hope

88.  Union for Reform Judaism

89.  Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

90. United States Campaign for Burma

91.   Voice of Rohingya

92. Win Without War

93.  WITNESS

94.  Women Peace Network

95. World Rohingya Organization

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