Brought to you by the CCGPC, because we care and we hope you do too.
State Department Refuses to Call Violence Against Rohingya ‘Ethnic Cleansing’
Half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar amid burned villages, mass executions.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday refused several times to designate the systemic atrocities against the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar as “ethnic cleansing.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy steered clear of the term when pressed repeatedly by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to corroborate the United Nations’ assessment that Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya minority represents a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
More than 500,000 people have fled to Bangladesh over the past month, with tens of thousands more trapped on the border, amid reports of the Burmese military burning entire villages and methodically killing Rohingya civilians.
Murphy said security forces bear responsibility for a “disproportionate response” to a Rohingya insurgent attack on more than two dozen security sites that killed 12 people on Aug. 25, but he hedged on whether the military reaction constituted ethnic cleansing. Murphy instead described the crisis as a “human tragedy.”
Murphy’s response drew criticism from lawmakers, including committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.) and ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.).
“Just for the record, myself and Mr. Engel, this committee, we identify this as full-fledged ethnic cleansing,” Royce said.
Engel said satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts show Myanmar’s military and security forces “have been carrying out an intentional, systematic policy to drive Rohingya from their homes in Burma and to burn their villages to the ground.”
He said medical professionals in the region have reported hundreds of Rohingya Muslims being treated for gunshot wounds exacted by security forces as people attempted to flee.
The strongest criticism of Murphy came from Rep. Gerry Connolly (D., Va.), who asked the State official if his refusal to characterize the situation as ethnic cleansing was in fear of offending the Burmese military.
“Mr. Murphy, I guess I don’t understand your reluctance to call this what it is: Ethnic cleansing,” Connolly said. “You’ve used code, ‘disproportionate response by the military, other sources of violence, a cauldron of complexities.’ At least Nikki Haley admitted it appears to be ethnic cleansing.”
“When 800,000 people of a particular ethnic background are living in the neighboring country because they’ve been forcibly removed from their villages, I’d call that ethnic cleansing, pretty clear and simple. What is your reluctance to call it what it is?” he continued.
Murphy rejected Connolly’s characterization of his reluctance to use the term. He said the State Department is “deeply concerned by the human tragedy” and is focused on pursuing “action and to end the violence.”
When pressed again by Connolly to explain his refusal to call it ethnic cleansing, Murphy replied the situation in part “must be focused on the UN fact-finding mission,” which is expected to be complete in September 2018.
“So we’re waiting for the UN?” Connolly asked.
“No, that is a parallel process that we are strongly supporting,” Murphy replied.
“So we don’t care whether the UN find sit ethnic cleansing or not, we’re free to call it what we think it is,” Connolly said.
“Absolutely, a human tragedy,” Murphy replied.
“Then why don’t you call it ethnic cleansing?”
“It’s a human tragedy, congressman.”
Connolly acknowledged the United States must be careful with the labels it applies to humanitarian crises but said the tragedy in Myanmar must be described in clear terms.
Though Murphy declined to label the crisis as ethnic cleansing, he cited comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who last week accused Myanmar of carrying out a “brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.”
The UN defines ethnic cleansing as “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.”
In September, the top UN human rights official said the “brutal security operation” against the Rohingya “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and called upon the government to cease military action against the minority ethnic group.
And Yet According to Refugees International – Boots on the Ground Reports
October 6, 2017
Refugees International Bears Witness to Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar, Calls for Presidential Envoy and Sanctions on Myanmar’s Military
Refugees International released a new policy brief today detailing actions committed by Myanmar’s military that constitute a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people. The brief, “Bearing Witness to Crimes Against Humanity,” is based on testimony from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, detailing abuses by Myanmar’s military forces that constitute crimes against humanity.
During a fact-finding mission to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in late September, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz and Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan met with Rohingya refugees who recently fled the targeted attacks in Rakhine State. Rohingya men, women, and children who recently arrived in Bangladesh shared consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing and shooting Rohingya villagers, and committing mass rapes.
The Rohingya people have faced decades of persecution and targeted violence in Myanmar, but the recent attacks and large-scale displacement that began just over a month ago is an entirely new scale and level of inhumanity. As a result, the number of Rohingya seeking refuge in neighboring Bangladesh now tops a half million and conditions in the make-shift refugee settlements are appalling. The humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed the Bangladesh government’s existing capabilities. To its credit, Bangladesh has generally welcomed the Rohingya refugees, but much more international assistance is needed to address the still-growing humanitarian crisis.
The RI brief concludes that the root causes of the humanitarian crisis have to be addressed and that can only be done by bringing pressure on the Myanmar government to end its policies of persecution and on the Myanmar military to end its egregious human rights abuses.
Measures by the U.S. Government and the international community should include:
Targeted sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military officials and military-owned enterprises.
A multi-lateral arms embargo on Myanmar.
Appointment of a high-level U.S. Presidential envoy on Myanmar.
Further, Refugees International calls on the United Nations, United States, and the international community to demand a cessation of abuses against Rohingya civilians, access for a United Nations fact-finding mission to investigate human rights abuses, and unfettered access for humanitarian organizations in Rakhine State. In addition, there should be robust international support for humanitarian aid efforts in Bangladesh.
……….. Which the RI Report States as Follows………
BEARING WITNESS TO CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
Following the violent expulsion of some 400,000 Rohingya in Myanmar in the course of three weeks (now more than 500,000), Refugees International (RI) President Eric Schwartz and Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan traveled to Bangladesh to assess the situation and bear witness. This policy brief is based on that mission, which involved interviews with Rohingya refugees who recently arrived from Myanmar as well as with United Nations and Bangladesh government officials and international aid workers in Bangladesh. Schwartz and Sullivan visited a hospital in Cox’s Bazar which treats recently arrived Rohingya from Myanmar, four makeshift settlements for Rohingya (Kutupalong, Balukhali, Thaingkhali, and Unchiprang) as well as border crossing areas and a “no-man’s land” where many Rohingya have gathered between the borders of Myanmar and Bangladesh. This policy brief is largely adapted from testimony given by Refugees International’s Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel Sullivan before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on September 27, 2017.1
The Myanmar military has been executing a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people of Myanmar, marked by abuses that constitute crimes against humanity.
More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in the course of a month, approaching half of the entire Rohingya population that had been living in Myanmar up to a month ago. Vast swaths of villages have been burned by the Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist mobs. Rohingya refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh share consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing, shooting, and raping the inhabitants, leaving the survivors to flee for their lives.
The current crisis that began just over a month ago is an entirely new scale and level of inhumanity.
The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution, but the violence and large-scale displacement have intensified in recent years. The current crisis that began just over a month ago is of an entirely new scale and level of inhumanity. The current campaign began after attacks on 30 security posts in Rakhine State in western Myanmar and the killing of 12 Myanmar security officials by poorly armed Rohingya insurgents, but the military’s response to those attacks has been grossly disproportionate and has broadly targeted the Rohingya civilian population. Many people from other ethnic groups, including Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus have been displaced and killed as well, reportedly in attacks by Rohingya insurgents, but the attacks on other groups has been nowhere on the scale of the attacks on the Rohingya.
The outflow of half a million Rohingya has also created a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh as existing capabilities have been overwhelmed. To its credit, the Bangladesh government has generally welcomed the Rohingya refugees, but much more international assistance is needed to address the still growing humanitarian crisis. Ultimately, the root causes of the crisis will have to be addressed by bringing pressure on the Myanmar government that has continued policies of persecution and on the Myanmar military that has carried out egregious human rights abuses.
The UN Security Council should:
- Demand a cessation of abuses against Rohingya civilians, access for a United Nations fact-finding mission that has been authorized by the UN Human Rights Council, and unfettered access for humanitarian organizations to Rakhine State.
- Impose a multi-lateral arms embargo until these requirements are met and individuals involved in planning, aiding or carrying out such abuses against the Rohingya are held accountable.
- Place targeted sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military officials and military-owned enterprises.
- Authorize evidence collection through the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission or another UN Security Council authorized fact-finding mission toward holding accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses.
- Support a referral to the International Criminal Court unless the Myanmar authorities take significant measures to address the human rights concerns and to hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses.
- Affirm support for the report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which contains important recommendations relating to the Rohingya in Myanmar.
The U.S. government should:
- Strongly support UN Security Council action as described above.
- Prohibit military-to-military cooperation with Myanmar and place targeted sanctions against Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military officials and military-owned enterprises until the Myanmar government ends abuses in Rakhine state, permits unfettered international humanitarian access, and holds accountable individuals involved in planning, aiding or carrying out the abuses against the Rohingya.
- Support robust humanitarian aid efforts in Bangladesh in the near term, focusing, particularly, on adequate shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and medical care, including clinical management of rape and psychosocial support for survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).
- Work toward the eventual safe and voluntary return of Rohingya to Myanmar.
- Appoint a high-level Presidential envoy on Myanmar (who could be a “dual-hatted” official who is already serving in government), who would seek to work with like-minded governments to lead international efforts to end abuses, provide assistance to refugees and promote conditions that will permit the eventual safe and voluntary return of Rohingya to Myanmar.
Download the Policy Brief: https://www.refugeesinternational.org/s/Myanmar-Policy-Brief-October-2017-lmhg.pdf
Rohingya fleeing abuses in Myanmar seek refuge in “no-man’s land” between the borders of Myanmar and Bangladesh!