USCIRF Calls for Justice on Fourth Anniversary of Genocidal Campaign Against Rohingya Muslims

Aug 25, 2021

USCIRF Calls for Justice on Fourth Anniversary of Genocidal Campaign Against Rohingya Muslims

Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today marked the fourth anniversary of the Burmese military’s genocidal campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State by calling for accountability of the military junta, known as the Tatmadaw, who perpetuated this violence.

Four years after the beginning of the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people, Burma has entered a new period of instability in which its most vulnerable face even greater risk,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza stated. “We urge the United States government to support efforts to hold the Tatmadaw accountable and provide justice for Rohingya survivors, which is needed to break the cycle of impunity that emboldened the Tatmadaw to seize control.”

On August 25, 2017, the Tatmadaw launched a genocidal campaign in Rakhine State against the largely Muslim Rohingya community. The United Nations Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar has documented instances of Burmese military units involved in indiscriminate killings of civilians, mass rape, and arbitrary detentions. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than 740,000 Rohingya refugees fled to camps in Bangladesh, while another 120,000 are displaced internally.

This past February, the Tatmadaw launched a coup that plunged Burma into unprecedented chaos. Violence and persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community, which existed prior to the coup, has become an even greater threat. On August 1, 2021, Burmese military General Min Aung Hlaing declared himself Prime Minister and extended the military dictatorship until at least 2023.

“The Burmese military committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the Burmese people, including the Rohingya. Yet, General Hlaing pronounced his plans to extend the military coup and his dictatorship for the next couple of years,” added USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava. “USCIRF reiterates its recommendation to the State Department to definitively and publicly conclude if the Tatmadaw’s actions against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State meet the legal definition of crimes against humanity or genocide. Doing so would assist the worldwide efforts at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice to hold Burmese authorities accountable for their crimes.

Shortly after the coup took place in Burma, USCIRF discussed the implications on religious communities in an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast.

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF urged the U.S. government to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to impose targeted sanctions on Burmese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations against Rohingya Muslims. Since the February 2021 coup, the U.S. government has issued a series of sanctions, though to date none have cited religious freedom violations.

USCIRF held two hearings in a series titled Ending Genocide in which Burma was a focus. The May 2021 hearing was on the U.S. government’s genocide determinations and next steps and the July 2021 hearing discussed accountability for perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov.