14 April 2021
Washington (April 14, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today introduced legislation requiring the Secretary of State to determine whether attacks by Burmese military and security forces against the Rohingya minority constitute genocide. Since August 25, 2017, around 740,000 Rohingya have fled Burma (also known as Myanmar) to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a brutal campaign of atrocities by Burma’s military and security forces, including systematic murder and sexual and gender-based violence. On February 1, 2021 the Burmese military carried out a coup against the democratically elected, civilian-led government and has since killed more than 700 civilians during widespread peaceful protests and strikes in opposition to the coup.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and other State Department officials have committed to Senator Markey that there will be an interagency process to determine whether the atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Burma constitute genocide, but have not indicated a timeline for that decision to be announced.
“The Burmese military must know that it cannot continue to carry out atrocities against the Rohingya or anyone else in Burma with impunity,” said Senator Markey. “The military leaders who are currently engaged in brutal attacks and serious human rights abuses against peaceful protesters are many of the same leaders who oversaw the campaign of genocide and atrocities targeted at the Rohingya. The Rohingya people will not be able to start the path towards justice, equality, or full representation until we recognize the crimes committed against them for what they were – genocide. I urge the Biden administration to complete the determination process as quickly as possible as justice delayed is justice denied.”
Human rights investigators funded by the State Department concluded in 2018 that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that genocide was committed.” United Nations (UN) investigators have also found evidence that infers genocidal intent. The State Department’s own 2018 report stated that violence committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya, including from August to October 2017, was not only “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents,” but also “well-planned and coordinated.” A UN fact-finding mission on Burma warned in September 2019 of “a serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur,” yet the Trump administration’s 2020 Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Report made no explicit mention of the Rohingya.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
“A genocide determination by the U.S. is a necessary step to addressing the impunity that the military and security forces in Burma have enjoyed for far too long,” said Lauren Fortgang, Director and Co-Founder, Never Again Coalition. “We applaud Senator Markey\’s introduction of this important and timely bill, particularly as we observe Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month this April. There is no better way to honor the lives that have been lost than to take concrete action to end and prevent these atrocities from occurring again.”
“Given the ongoing violence in Myanmar perpetrated against civilians by the ruling junta, now is exactly the right time to be clear about what happened to the Rohingya,” said Dr. Paul R. Williams, Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) Founder. “Based on our landmark 2018 documentation mission and legal analysis, PILPG concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes have been committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar\’s Rakhine state. In light of the comprehensive evidence contained in our report, PILPG has repeatedly called for accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya. We welcome Senator Markey’s proposed bill as a long-awaited and welcome step in the direction of international accountability.”
“Refugees International applauds the introduction of the Rohingya Genocide Determination Bill,” said Eric Schwartz, President, Refugees International. “It is an important signal to the generals in Myanmar whose ongoing atrocities are fueled by impunity. A genocide determination would be both factually accurate and reflect a growing voice of solidarity across Myanmar about the need to hold the military accountable.”
Rampant impunity has emboldened the Myanmar military to stage the recent coup and continue to commit human rights violations against all of Myanmar\’s people,” said Wai Wai Nu, Founder and Executive Director, Women\’s Peace Network in Myanmar. “We must not forget, however, that the atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya preceded the coup and continue today. The world has ultimately allowed these crimes by turning away and failing to recognize them for what they are: genocide. Making a genocide determination now is a crucial step to help Rohingya genocide survivors and other victims of the Myanmar military\’s crimes to pursue justice, healing, and the rebuilding of our country.”
“The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, a consortium of 30 Jewish organizations representing all four major branches of American Judaism, strongly supports today’s reintroduction of the Rohingya Genocide Determination Act,” said Jewish Rohingya Justice Network. “As a network of Jewish organizations, we know the horrors and indignities of ongoing genocide, and the danger of the international community remaining silent. It has long since passed the time for the United States to designate the atrocities that have been – and continue to be – perpetrated against the Rohingya people what they are: a genocide. The terrible events since the Burmese military seized power in the February 1st coup only add further urgency to such a designation, as the military responsible for the coup and the hundreds of subsequent deaths, is the same military that orchestrated a genocide against the Rohingya people since 2017. Throughout Jewish history, we have known what it is like to face genocide, denial of rights, and exclusion from society. We understand deeply the fight for pluralism and democracy, which seems further out of reach today in Burma. We also understand all too well the cost of silence. The international community must not remain silent—the United States must champion the call for justice for the Rohingya people by making a genocide determination.”