Maximizing the Impact of Rohingya Atrocity Determination
On March 21, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced what the world has long known: that Burmese Rohingya are facing genocide and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Burmese military. The determination was based on atrocities committed in 2016 and 2017.
Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the crimes have ceased since the 2021 military coup. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the atrocities are continuing, with no end in sight.
Earlier this month, a 193-page report published by Fortify Rights presented evidence that Burma’s military has continued to commit crimes against humanity since taking power. Specifically, the report documented “how Myanmar’s military junta has murdered, imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, persecuted and forcibly displaced or transferred peaceful protesters, activists, political leaders and other civilians across the country to during the six months following the military coup. Burmese civilians, especially those who oppose army rule, as well as ethnic minorities involved in ethnic conflicts are the main targets of the latest series of atrocities committed by the army.
The fact that the military continues to perpetrate serious human rights abuses makes it even more urgent that the determination of atrocities serve as a catalyst for action.
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Previous determinations of atrocities have generated political momentum. After the Obama administration said ISIS was targeting Yazidis and Christians in genocide in Iraq and Syria, Congress swung into action by passing legislation creating a USAID-administered fund that has up to has now distributed nearly $400 million in aid to ISIS genocide survivors. The Trump administration’s determination that the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs has led other countries to take similar decisions, as well as to issue multilateral sanctions and undertake diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Olympics.
Atrocity determinations transcend jurisdictions. They also have the potential to mitigate future atrocities and ensure adequate support for survivors. Determining Rohingya atrocities should be no different.
To ensure maximum impact, the United States and the international community should consider the following next steps:
1. Provide safe haven for Rohingyas in need.
When situations are particularly serious, the United States can confer the label of “groups of special humanitarian interest” by extending priority 2 (P-2) refugee status. As a member of a persecuted group, P-2 recipients can bypass recommendations from UNHCR, embassies, and NGOs and apply directly for resettlement to the United States. They are treated on the basis of their membership in a group with known and established links. grounds for persecution, such as genocide. Current P-2s include Afghans who have worked for the United States, Iraqis who have worked for the United States, Burmese refugees in Thailand and Malaysia, and politically persecuted Cubans, among others. There are strong reasons why the Rohingya receive this same designation.
2. Increase sanctions pressure on the Burmese military.
The response to the Biden administration’s sanctions has fallen far short of expectations. Immediately after the coup, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on two major military-owned conglomerates, MEC and MEHL. Since then, the sanctions response has stalled, issuing sanctions largely piecemeal and stopping short of sanctioning the oil and gas industry. This is a critical shortcoming, as military-owned conglomerate Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise largely funds the military. Tougher sanctions — by the United States and others — are needed to cut off the military from the resources it needs to carry out ongoing and future atrocity crimes.
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3. Ensure adequate aid and assistance to the civil disobedience movement – or the opposition, pro-democracy movement – in Burma. Using existing cross-border channels, the United States should continue to support a wide range of civil society organizations, including ethnic and women’s groups, who can provide support to those suffering the consequences of the coup. State. This should include not only assistance to CDM participants, protesters, families of detainees and those directly involved in the movement, but also something specifically targeting military and other security personnel in a way that would encourage defections. As CDM members increasingly become targets of military anger, these efforts become even more important, as well as complementary, to this latest determination.
There is a lot of work to be done to secure justice for Burma’s Rohingya people and others who oppose the military’s brutal rule. Determining the atrocities was an important step toward strengthening US policy toward Burma, but it is just that: the beginning. The United States, together with its international allies and partners, must make it clear that there will be grave consequences for the military leadership if it continues to perpetrate atrocities against the people of Burma.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2022/03/28/maximizing-the-impact-of-the-atrocity-determination-for-rohingya/?sh =7e3f1493416d