Myanmar committed genocide against Rohingya, US says
The United States has officially declared the violence against the Rohingya by the Burmese military to amount to genocide, saying there was clear evidence of an attempt to “destroy” the Muslim minority.
Citing the killing of thousands of people and forcing nearly a million people to flee the country in 2016 and 2017, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had “determined that members of the Burmese military had committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya”.
“The army’s intent went beyond ethnic cleansing to actual destruction of the Rohingya,” Blinken told the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“The attack on the Rohingya was widespread and systematic, which is crucial in reaching a determination of crimes against humanity.”
The US decision had no further direct repercussions against Myanmar’s already heavily sanctioned regime and dozens of members of its leadership.
But Mr. Blinken said he would support international efforts, including at the International Court of Justice, to bring cases of crimes against humanity against the regime.
Mr Blinken noted 2017 remarks by Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief, that the government was “solving” “unfinished business” in its destruction of Rohingya communities.
Mr Blinken added that Min Aung Hlaing led the 2021 coup to overthrow Myanmar’s elected government.
“The brutal violence unleashed by the military since February 2021 has made it clear that no one in Burma will be safe from atrocities while in power,” Blinken said, using the former official name. from the country.
“Anyone in Burma seen as challenging the military’s grip on power – regardless of ethnicity or religion, age or political party – will be targeted,” he said.
About 850,000 Rohingya languish in camps in neighboring Bangladesh, recounting the massacres and rapes of the campaign that was launched against them five years ago.
Another 600,000 community members remain in Rakhine State in Myanmar, where they report widespread oppression.
The US statement was greeted with caution by activists and members of the beleaguered community.
“It should have been done long before. However, I think the US decision will help the ICJ process for the Rohingyas,” said a displaced member of the community at a camp near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe.
Thin Thin Hlaing, a Rohingya rights activist, also welcomed the US decision.
“I feel like we were going through a blackout, but now we see a light, because they recognize our suffering,” she said.
A legal qualification of genocide – defined by the UN as acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” – could be followed by new sanctions and limitations on the aid, among other punishments against the already isolated military junta.
A case was opened against Myanmar for genocide at the ICJ in 2019, and the court is currently hearing preliminary arguments on Myanmar’s objection to the case.
The Holocaust Museum prepared its own report in late 2017 with the group Fortify Rights which concluded that there was compelling evidence of crimes against humanity in Myanmar.
The US State Department released a report in 2018 describing the violence against the Rohingya in western Rakhine State as “extreme, large-scale, widespread and apparently intended both to terrorize the population and to drive out Rohingya residents”.
But activists have called for stronger actions, noting that the United Nations Security Council has done little to speak out against Myanmar’s regime.
“War crimes and crimes against humanity are committed every day with impunity by Myanmar’s military junta,” Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, said today. before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Mr Andrews accused the United Nations of insufficient action to help the Rohingya and others in the country, contrary to the strong international support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
“As the military junta escalates its ruthless attacks on the people of Myanmar, the people of Myanmar see only endless expressions of concern from the international community, vague statements that something must be done and a tedious and endless wait for a consensus to act,” says Andrews.
Human Rights Watch called on the United States to push for a UN Security Council resolution and a UN-backed arms embargo against Myanmar.
The group also called for tougher sanctions against the country, to cut off military revenue from the energy, timber and mining industries.
“The military uses most of this revenue to support its expenses, which include major purchases of weapons and attack aircraft from Russia, China and other countries,” the group said.