September 25, 2018
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State United States
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20230
Dear Mr. Secretary,
We, the undersigned organizations, request that the United States Department of State officially designate the recent atrocities committed against the Rohingya, and other ethnic and religious minorities in the nation of Burma, as both genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Trump Administration’s leadership on this issue is critical to standing against ethnic and religious persecution and furthering the goals of your successful first-ever International Ministerial on Religious Freedom. Additionally, it is critical to act now, as the same military divisions that attacked the Rohingya, have relocated to Kachin State where they are positioning themselves to commit the same atrocities against the Kachin Christians. Burma’s Christian population is estimated at four to six million Christians. We urgently encourage you to take immediate action by articulating a moral, political, and policy designation respecting the dignity and safety of victimized Burmese individuals. The clearance operation of Rakhine State occurred over a year ago, and the wisely commissioned analysis is reported to be complete. This data is the tool needed to make a genocide declaration. We call you on you to take this bold humanitarian step to help provide further testimony and efforts to prevent these atrocities with this declaration.
Credible studies reveal findings of gross violations of human rights that meet the elements under international humanitarian and criminal law for such designations. Both the Fortify Rights July 2018 report and the August 2018 United Nations Human Rights Council International Independent Fact-Finding Mission (Mission) on Myanmar (also known as Burma) explain undeniable facts that point to no other reasonable conclusion.
Some key statements from the Mission report include:
“Genocide occurs when a person commits a prohibited act with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such. The Rohingya are a protected group under this definition. Their treatment by the Myanmar security forces, acting in concert with certain civilians, includes conduct which amounts to four of the five defined prohibited acts; (a) killing, (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm, (c) inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part, and (d) imposing measures intending to prevent births.
The critical element of the crime is “genocidal intent.” The Mission assessed its body of information in light of the jurisprudence of international tribunals regarding the reasonable inference of such intent. The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts. Factors pointing at such intent include the broader oppressive context and hate rhetoric; specific utterances of commanders and direct perpetrators; exclusionary policies, including to alter the demographic composition of Rakhine State; the level of organization indicating a plan for destruction; and the extreme scale and brutality of the violence.
Having given careful consideration to other possible inferences regarding intent, the Mission considers that these can be discounted as unreasonable. In this regard, the Mission notes the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief’s statement highlighted in paragraph 35, revealing that the “clearance operations” were not a response to a concrete threat from ARSA, but to the “unfinished job” of “solv(ing) the long-standing Bengali problem.”
The Mission concluded, given these considerations on the inference of genocidal intent, that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.”
Further, some key statements from the Fortify Rights report include:
“Under Article 6 of the Rome Statute, the crime of genocide involves three essential elements: (1) the commission of one or more of the five prohibited criminal acts enumerated by the Statute (2) against a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (3) with the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part….
This report finds reason to believe that the elements required to prove genocide under the legal framework set out in international criminal law have been met. Specifically, under the legal framework set out in international criminal law, this report establishes that (1) the Rohingya are a distinct ethnic group for the purposes of a genocide analysis, (2) Myanmar state security forces and non-Rohingya citizens acting under the control of Myanmar security forces killed Rohingya, likely inflicted serious bodily and mental harm on the Rohingya, and inflicted conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of the Rohingya, and (3) Myanmar state security forces and non-Rohingya citizens conducted these acts with the special intent to destroy the Rohingya in whole or in part.”
We thank you for your leadership and commitment to make the forthcoming State Department Burma atrocities-related report public, as discussed at both Congressional hearings. We also appreciate the investment of State Department resources in preparing the forthcoming report from interviews of refugee victims in Bangladesh. We eagerly await the imminent release of the report.
Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma
Law & Liberty Trust
International Christian Concern
Sovereign Global Solutions
Childrens First Foundation
Interfaith Center of New York
Justice For All
Valley Ranch Islamic Center, TX
Buddhist Humanitarian Project
Kachin National Organization US
Burma Task Force
Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center
Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center, Manhattan College, New York
World Rohingya Organization (WRO)
Genocide Survivors Foundation (GSF)
Uri L’Tzedek: The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Islamic Society of North America
DFW Refugee Outreach Services, TX
International Campaign for the Rohingya
Charter for Compassion
Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma
Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
The MADDOX Group
Pax Christi New York
Americans for Tax Reform