Feb 2, 2021
USCIRF Worried about Violence against Rohingya and other Religious Communities Following Military Coup in Burma
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is concerned about the potential for further violence against religious communities following the military coup in Burma. The Burmese military, also known as the Tatmadaw, perpetrated a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people, and these same military officials are now claiming power following the coup.
“USCIRF is deeply concerned about the Burmese military’s state of emergency announcement and the detentions of Aung San Suu Kyi and other state officials from the recently re-elected National League for Democracy party. Given the history of brutal atrocities by the Burmese military, our fear is that violence could quickly escalate, especially towards religious and ethnic communities, such as the Rohingya and other Muslims,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava. “We urge the Burmese military to honor the faith and will of the Burmese people and restore democratic civilian rule as soon as possible."
The Burmese military’s 2017 operations and continued crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state sparked mass migration to Bangladesh and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as internal displacement. The Tatmadaw is accused of targeting Rohingya with killings; mass rape and other sexual violence; disappearances; forced starvation; arbitrary detentions and arrests; looting, burning, and property confiscations; and hate speech. In 2020, the International Court of Justice issued a provisional order requiring that Burma must “refrain from acts of genocide against the Rohingya” and “ensure that the military and other groups subject to its control refrain from genocide or related acts.” The International Criminal Court continues to investigate the country for crimes against humanity.
“The Burmese military has still not been held accountable for the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslim refugees,” said USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza. “We urge the Biden Administration to hold the Burmese military accountable for its genocidal actions against Rohingya refugees, especially considering the events that transpired over the past couple of days. We fear for the safety of the remaining Rohingya Muslims and Christians in Burma that are indiscriminately targeted by the Tatmadaw.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). In March 2020, USCIRF published a factsheet on the accountability for international crimes against the Rohingya, urging the U.S. government to refocus efforts to conclude definitively and publicly whether atrocities against the Rohingya meet the legal definition of crimes against humanity and/or genocide.
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 threats to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.