Refugees International is deeply concerned about plans announced by the government of Bangladesh to begin relocating Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char, an isolated island more than 30 miles off the coast of Bangladesh.
Refugees International congratulates the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on its 10th anniversary of standing up for those whose human rights are under threat.
Refugees International is gravely concerned about announced plans to begin returning Rohingya refugees to an unacceptably dangerous situation in Myanmar.
Refugees International welcomes the announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department of new targeted sanctions on four Myanmar security officials and two military units directly involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. However, the new sanctions must be part of sustained efforts by the U.S. government at its highest levels in order to have real impact.
Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel P. Sullivan delivered testimony at a July 25, 2018, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on “Victims’ Rights in Burma,” regarding human rights abuses and the persecution of minorities in northern Myanmar, particularly in Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan States.
Refugees International joined 45 other organizations in sending the following letter to Senator Inhofe (Acting Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee), Senator Reed (Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee), Representative Thornberry (Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee), and Representative Smith (Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee). The letter urges the U.S. government to strengthen targeted sanctions on Myanmar.
In the statement, Refugees International notes the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Refugee Agency and the UN Development Program with the Government of Myanmar which would allow the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. However, RI is deeply concerned that continued impunity, restricted access to aid, and denial of basic human rights in Myanmar’s Rakhine State make repatriation a distant reality at this time.
Refugees International urges the United Nations Security Council to use its visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar to demand humanitarian access in Rakhine State and accountability for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya. The visit to the camps in Bangladesh, where 700,000 Rohingya have fled, must also serve to highlight the urgent need for humanitarian support and improved coordination ahead of the monsoon and cyclone seasons.
Refugees International welcomes the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passage of S.2060, the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act. This bipartisan legislation is a critical step forward in demanding accountability for the ethnic cleansing that has taken place in Burma (also known as Myanmar).
With the news that Myanmar and Bangladesh have reached an agreement on the return of the 600,000 Rohingya, Refugees International underlines several significant concerns about the terms of repatriation. Before any steps are undertaken, a number of safeguards must be put in place.
Refugees International welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's acknowledgement that ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people is taking place in Myanmar.
As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepares to visit Myanmar, he needs to send a strong message to Myanmar's government and military that violence against the Rohingya will not be tolerated. Failure of the government to take steps to end the violence should result in targeted sanctions against Myanmar's senior military leaders and military owned enterprises.
As President Trump take parts in meetings and summits in Southeast Asia, he must address the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority population by Myanmar’s security forces.
November 2, 2017
The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220
Re: Burma and Targeted Sanctions
Dear Secretaries Tillerson and Mnuchin,
The US government urgently needs to act to help address the grave human rights and humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the Burmese military’s brutal response to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s August 25 attack on government posts in Burma’s Rakhine State.
As you know, since late August, Burmese security forces have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing and committed numerous crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population, a long-persecuted ethnic and religious minority group predominantly in Rakhine State. In response to these abuses, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh over the past two months.
Satellite images commissioned by independent organizations show hundreds of burned villages – and tens of thousands of torched buildings. Refugees have provided first-hand accounts of unfathomable brutality: soldiers burning infants alive, gang-raping women, shooting villagers fleeing their homes – violations that research by nongovernmental organizations has found to be widespread and systematic.
United Nations investigators who have conducted interviews of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have noted “a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has called the scale and nature of the atrocities in Rakhine a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Despite international condemnation, Burmese authorities continue to restrict access to the region for most international humanitarian organizations, a UN fact-finding mission, and independent media. The commander-in-chief of the Burmese military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other Burmese officials, refuse to acknowledge the atrocities their forces have committed.
We commend the U.S. government for the nearly $104 million in humanitarian assistance it has provided in fiscal year 2017, nearly $40 million of which was provided in direct response to the Rakhine State crisis, to displaced populations in Burma and refugees in neighboring countries. We also strongly support the State Department’s statement that “individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”
It is critical that the U.S. government respond to the severity and scope of the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing campaign with effective action. To this end, we urge the administration to immediately and robustly impose targeted economic sanctions authorized under the 2008 JADE Act and the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
Under the JADE Act, the president is empowered to issue travel restrictions and financial sanctions against Burmese military officials and their immediate family members if they are “involved in…gross violations of human rights in Burma or in the commission of other human rights abuses.” Steps taken by the previous administration to lift sanctions did not unravel existing authorities but only waived them, and, according to recent State Department releases, some JADE Act authorities are currently in use, such as the ban on current and former Burmese military officials traveling to the United States. The administration should move to robustly and vigorously employ the remaining authorities.
In addition to the JADE Act, the administration should exercise its authority granted under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for the levying of travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals responsible for acts of significant corruption and gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals who seek “to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms, such as the freedom of religion.” Given that the Burmese military’s actions against the Rohingya people are motivated at least in part on religious grounds, the Global Magnitsky Act is applicable.
Given the systemic nature of the crimes being perpetrated against the Rohingya people, it is important that sanctions designations levied under either the JADE Act or Global Magnitsky Act target appropriately senior officials who likely ordered criminal acts or appear to have been criminally responsible as a matter of command responsibility. Command responsibility would encompass those senior-most members of the Burmese security forces who knew or had reason to know that their subordinates were committing extrajudicial killings, rape, arson and other abuses, and failed to take all necessary and reasonable steps to prevent such abuses or punish those responsible.
As you recently said, Secretary Tillerson, “the world cannot just sit idly by and be witness to these atrocities.” The JADE Act and Global Magnitsky Act provide the executive branch with tools for action. The United States should employ them to the fullest to prevent dire consequences for Burma’s future and send an unmistakable signal to the rest of the world.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights First
Ameinu (Our People)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish World Service
Association Suisse Birmanie
Boat People SOS
Buddhist Global Relief
Burma Action Ireland
Burma Campaign UK
Burma Human Rights Network
Burma Task Force
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
Center for Justice & Accountability
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Estonian American National Council
Equal Rights Trust
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA)
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Progressive Hub
Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College
Institute for Asian Democracy
Interfaith Center of New York
International Campaign for the Rohingya
International State Crime Initiative
Investors Against Genocide
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
JACOB: The Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Joint Baltic American National Committee
Jubilee Campaign USA Inc
Just Foreign Policy
Magnitsky Act Initiative
Muslim Bar Association of New York
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Partners Relief & Development
Physicians for Human Rights
Society for Threatened Peoples - Germany
STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders
The Network of Spiritual Progressives
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Win Without War
On September 27, 2017, Refugees International Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific in a hearing titled "Burma’s Brutal Campaign Against the Rohingya."
We, a global coalition of 88 civil society organizations, urgently call upon UN member states to take immediate steps to address the human rights abuses and humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya population.
During his upcoming address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump must demand strong measures to end the ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya people, especially in light of the escalated violence over the past three weeks.
Refugees International is outraged by the deplorable actions of the Myanmar military over the past several days. Well over 100,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State have been driven from their homes, and hundreds have reportedly been killed. Untold numbers are experiencing enormous deprivation and suffering as international humanitarian access is blocked to affected areas in Rakhine State.
Refugees International (RI) is deeply alarmed by the recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and the dire consequences for innocent civilians. RI condemns the heavy-handed response of the Myanmar military to attacks by Rohingya militants on police. Shocking reports of attacks on Rohingya civilians by the Myanmar military, including the firing of machine guns and mortars toward fleeing civilians, are particularly disturbing and deserve unequivocal international condemnation.
Refugees International issued a statement welcoming the final report and recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. RI urges the Government of Myanmar to implement the Commission's recommendations with particular emphasis on the need for full and unfettered humanitarian access and the need to address Rakhine State as a human rights crisis.