Merkley, Bipartisan Colleagues Call on Trump Administration to Condemn Rohingya Genocide, Provide Additional Support

Merkley, Bipartisan Colleagues Call on Trump Administration to Condemn Rohingya Genocide, Provide Additional Support

On the third anniversary of the brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing, senators urged action to support Rohingya community

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley led a group of eight bipartisan colleagues today—the third anniversary of the brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted by the Burmese military against the Rohingya Muslim minority—in a letter urging the Trump administration to take additional action to support the Rohingya community, to hold accountable those responsible for the atrocities, and to refer to these crimes by their proper term: genocide.

Joining Merkley in the letter are U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Todd Young (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo the senators wrote, “Since August 25, 2017, close to 800,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Burma by escaping into neighboring Bangladesh. Most of them are living in refugee camps in horrific conditions, joining hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya forced to flee from Burma due to decades of government-sanctioned violence. Throughout this time, the systemic campaign of violence against the Rohingya has been well-documented by the State Department and many others. The Burmese military has murdered thousands of Rohingya, committed widespread rape and sexual violence, destroyed hundreds of villages, thrown children and babies into fires, and used mass graves to attempt to conceal their reprehensible crimes.

“We urge you and President Trump to speak out forcefully and publicly about these atrocities, acknowledging the gravity of the crimes with a determination of crimes against humanity and genocide,” they continued. “The Rohingya people continue to face real and imminent risk, and the United States should act today to demonstrate global leadership and stand boldly against these genocidal tactics that have no place in civilized society.”

Last week, 33 preeminent legal and human rights experts called on the Trump administration to make a determination that genocide has been committed against the Rohingya population.   

Click here for a video message from Sen. Merkley.

Since joining the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2017, Merkley has used his position to highlight humanitarian issues and combat human rights abuses around the globe. In November 2017, Merkley led the first congressional delegation to Burma and Bangladesh to investigate the atrocities against the Rohingya minority in Burma and meet with refugees in Bangladesh. In 2018, he conducted a fact-finding mission to examine root causes and responses to famines in several regions of Africa. Merkley also has been a leading voice in calling out Saudi human rights abuses at home and abroad, and has used his position to push for humane and dignified treatment of refugees and asylum seekers within the U.S. and around the world.

Find the full letter here and below.

 

August 25, 202

Secretary Michael Pompeo

United States Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20011

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

On the third anniversary of the brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted by the Burmese military against the Rohingya, we urge the administration to take additional action to support the Rohingya community, to hold accountable those responsible for the atrocities, and to refer to these crimes by their proper term: genocide.

As you know, since August 25, 2017, close to 800,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Burma by escaping into neighboring Bangladesh. Most of them are living in refugee camps in horrific conditions, joining hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya forced to flee from Burma due to decades of government-sanctioned violence. Throughout this time, the systemic campaign of violence against the Rohingya has been well-documented by the State Department and many others. The Burmese military has murdered thousands of Rohingya, committed widespread rape and sexual violence, destroyed hundreds of villages, thrown children and babies into fires, and used mass graves to attempt to conceal their reprehensible crimes.

We believe strongly in a democratic, inclusive, and prosperous Burma. We are proud that the United States has been the largest contributor to the humanitarian response to this crisis, a reflection of the generosity of the American people and our historic leadership in defending human rights. However, the situation remains grave as abuses continue, Bangladesh tires of the strain on its own resources, and COVID-19 fuels new suffering within the displaced communities. Three years of this horror is three years too many.

We urge you and President Trump to speak out forcefully and publicly about these atrocities, acknowledging the gravity of the crimes with a determination of crimes against humanity and genocide. A genocide determination would properly recognize the scale and severity of atrocities committed against the Rohingya, open the door to additional actions to hold Burmese leadership responsible for their inexcusable behavior, help to prevent further atrocities in an environment of ongoing high risk, and galvanize international aid and attention at a time of donor fatigue. This determination would demonstrate U.S. leadership and moral authority in a region where China’s reach continues to expand.

The atrocities in Burma constitute genocide by any reasonable definition of the word, including the United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and U.S. law, which defines genocide in 18 U.S.C. 1091 as “violent attacks with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” This view is widely shared in the international community, as well as by important voices like the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Refugees International, and the Public International Law and Policy Group, which the State Department relied on in documenting the horrors committed against the Rohingya. The Rohingya people continue to face real and imminent risk and the United States should act today to demonstrate global leadership and stand boldly against these genocidal tactics that have no place in civilized society.

Sincerely,

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