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Senators Cardin, Markey, Merkley and Durbin to Introduce Legislation Directing State Department to Issue a Rohingya Genocide Determination

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), introduced legislation to require the Secretary of State to determine whether attacks by Burmese military and security forces against the Rohingya minority constitute genocide. Since August 25, 2017, some 740,000 Rohingya have fled Burma to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a brutal campaign of atrocities by Burma’s military and security forces, including systematic murder and sexual and gender-based violence.

The Secretary of State has still not issued a determination on whether the atrocities committed against the Rohingya constitute genocide, even though human rights investigators funded by the State Department concluded in 2018 that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that genocide was committed.” UN investigators have also found evidence that infers genocidal intent. The State Department’s own 2018 report stated that violence committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya, including from August to October 2017, was not only “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents,” but also “well-planned and coordinated.” A UN fact-finding mission on Burma warned in September 2019 of “a serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur,” yet the Trump administration’s 2020 Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Report made no explicit mention of the Rohingya.

“The Rohingya people have been subjected to systemic, ongoing violence in Burma for years. The violence has decimated their communities and has forced over one million to flee their homes. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this legislation that asks the US to officially call the situation what it is: genocide,” said Senator Cardin.

“It is past time for the United States government to speak with one voice: Burmese military and security forces have committed genocide against the Rohingya,” said Senator Markey. “The Rohingya people in refugee camps and still in Burma deserve not only security, sustenance, and citizenship, but also our simple acknowledgment of the facts surrounding the unspeakable crimes inflicted upon them and their loved ones.  Calling the Burmese military’s campaign of atrocities by its name —genocide— is a crucial step towards accountability and reconciliation.”

“The atrocities that the Burmese military has inflicted on Rohingya Muslims are horrific. These unspeakable acts must be condemned and punished by the international community as forcefully as possible,” said Senator Merkley. “A key step towards justice and accountability is to acknowledge the truth and call these actions by their proper name: genocide. The U.S. should be leading, not lagging, on championing human rights around the globe—and if we are to lead the international community in responding to the persecution of the Rohingya, we need to officially call this genocide what it is.”

“The Rohingya in Burma have suffered severe human rights abuse, been brutally forced from their homes, and unjustly shut out of the democratic process. I’m joining my colleagues to introduce a bill that urges the State Department to call the systematic murder and treatment of the Rohingya what it has been for years: genocide,” said Senator Durbin.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Specifically, the Rohingya Genocide Determination Act would:

  • Require the Secretary of State, within 90 days, to submit to Congress an evaluation of the persecution and attacks against the Rohingya in Burma by Burmese military and security forces, including whether the situation constitutes genocide as defined by U.S. law.
  • Require a detailed description of any proposed atrocity prevention response recommended by the Atrocity Early Warning Task Force.
  • Make clear through a sense of Congress that the atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese military and security forces constitute genocide.

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