AJWS Applauds the U.S. State Department for Denying Visas to Top Burmese Military Officials in Response to Genocide of the Rohingya People

Leading human rights group calls on the U.S. Government to demand justice and accountability for the treatment of all ethnic minorities in Burma

Rori Kramer, Director of Government Affairs for American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, issued the following statement as the U.S. State Department denied visas to top officials of Burma’s military because of “gross human rights violations” against the Rohingya people:

“American Jewish World Service welcomes the State Department’s step to hold perpetrators of genocide and war crimes against the Rohingya people accountable by denying visas to top Burmese military officials and their immediate family members.

The State Department’s decision means that these top Burmese military officials and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States: Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing; Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win; Brigadier General Than Oo; and Brigadier General Aung Aung.

Since the Burmese military launched a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people nearly two years ago, in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya people have been forced to flee their home country to escape horrific violence—simply because of their ethnicity and religion. Despite the atrocities carried out by the military, including those documented in the State Department’s own report last year, the U.S. administration had yet to hold the main architects of this violence accountable. However, with this week’s action, the United States is sending a clear message to the Burmese military that the brutal campaign of violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities is unacceptable.

While this is an important first step, these designations are not enough to ensure full justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities that have been targeted by the Burmese military. We urge the State Department to issue a legal determination on the crimes committed against the Rohingya people by the Burmese military and follow up with meaningful U.S. actions. These would include U.S. backing for international justice mechanisms that are supported by the Rohingya people themselves. We also urge Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to apply pressure to the Burmese military by using the full force of U.S. sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act. By freezing the assets of the individuals designated by the State Department, as well as imposing sanctions against Burmese military-owned businesses, the U.S. Government will cut off the financial ties that have let the Burmese military consolidate power. Such financial pressure will help promote true democratic change.

As the leading global Jewish organization supporting human rights in Burma, we remember our own history, which has taught us the horrors of facing genocide, expulsion, and exclusion from society. We cannot stand by when people suffer government-sanctioned brutality and persecution. When we say ‘never again,’ we mean no genocide, ever, against any people.”

About American Jewish World Service’s work in Burma

For more than 17 years, AJWS has supported the human rights of ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people. AJWS provides direct financial support to more than 30 human rights organizations in Burma that have been working to advance the rights of minority ethnic groups and to create a truly pluralistic and democratic society. Please read more about our work in Burma here.

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