US calls violence against Rohingya in Myanmar genocide

The United States will officially declare the Burmese army’s campaign against the Rohingya as genocide on Monday, a move welcomed but cautiously by that Muslim minority.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Burma, a majority Buddhist population, after a military crackdown in 2017 that is the subject of a genocide trial before the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), the highest jurisdiction of the United Nations. .

The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, will announce the decision to classify this violent campaign as genocide during a visit on Monday to the Holocaust museum in Washington, where an exhibition entitled “Burma’s path to genocide” opens.

Blinken said in December during a visit to Malaysia that Washington was “very actively” seeking to determine whether the treatment of the Rohingya community could “constitute genocide.”

A 2018 State Department report, cited by CNN, described violence against Rohingya in southwestern Burma’s Rakhine state as “extreme, large-scale, widespread, and apparently designed both to terrify to the population and to expel the Rohingya residents”.

Around 850,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps in neighboring Bangladesh, while another 600,000 members of the community remain in Rakhine.

“It should have been done a long time ago, however I think that the US decision will help the Rohingya in the process before the ICJ,” said a refugee from that minority in one of the camps where those displaced by the crisis live, near Sittwe , capital of the Rakhine state.

Thin Thin Hlaing, a Rohingya rights activist, also welcomed Washington’s decision. “I am sorry to live in the middle of a blackout, but today we see a light because they recognize our suffering,” she told AFP.

“I will never forget the painful stories I heard in 2017 from members of the Rohingya community in Burma and Bangladesh: stories of violence and crimes against humanity,” US Senator Jeff Merkley said on Twitter on Sunday night.

“It’s good to see the government take this long-awaited step to hold this brutal regime to account, something I’ve been working toward for years,” he added of Washington’s decision.

If it is legally classified as genocide, Burma could suffer additional sanctions and restrictions on international aid, among other penalties against the military junta that governs the country, The New York Times reported.

The United States has already imposed a series of sanctions against Burmese leaders and, like other Western countries, has long restricted arms exports destined for the Asian nation’s military.

The military forces were already accused even before the military coup of February 1, 2021 of crimes against humanity for abuses against the Rohingya.

Gambia’s case against Burma at the International Court of Justice in 2019 was complicated by last year’s February coup in which the military overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, sparking massive protests and a bloody crackdown. .

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who faced criticism from human rights organizations for her role in the Rohingya case, remains under house arrest and is on trial by the same generals she defended in The Hague.

On March 15, a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the post-coup period accused the Burmese military of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity since the coup and called on the international community to take action. immediate.


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US calls violence against Rohingya in Myanmar genocide