Statement of Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, in response to the United States Department of State’s Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State

“More than a year after horrific and violent attacks by the Burmese military began on the Rohingya people, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is gravely disappointed that the U.S. State Department failed to name the international crimes committed against the Rohingya people as the heinous acts that they are—genocide or crimes against humanity. With the lives of  hundreds of thousands from the Rohingya community in the balance, it is unfortunate that the U.S. State Department report did not indicate any U.S. leadership, propose an action or define a path toward meaningful accountability and redress for the Rohingya people.

“Given the report’s lack of direction to resolve this crisis and achieve justice, the U.S. government must follow up on this important U.S. State Department report with strong sanctions—like those called for in the stalled Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act—and additional high-level Global Magnitsky designations for the Burmese military officials responsible for the violence.

“The U.S. must now use this report to take bold action both unilaterally and with the broader international community. Having gathered the evidence outlined in this report, the U.S. now bears the responsibility to advocate for the use of international justice mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, which are essential to achieving the justice that the Rohingya people need. The U.S. and its international partners must take concrete actions to ensure the Rohingya can return home in peace and security.

“This report, as unsatisfactory as it is, still confirms what we already know from the powerful United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission and other reports from international human rights organizations released in previous months, highlighting that the violence against the Rohingya people was ‘extreme, large-scale, widespread’ and ‘well-planned.’ The horrifying actions by the Burmese military described in this report must trigger meaningful U.S. action.

“As a Jewish organization cognizant of the horrific crimes committed against the Jewish people during the 1930s and 1940s, we know the cost and consequences when powerful states fail to act in the face of the most horrendous crimes known to humanity. The U.S. must lead its international peers in working to resolve this crisis and end impunity, particularly as world leaders gather this week at the United Nations General Assembly.

“As the leading global Jewish human rights organization and a long-term supporter of human rights for all ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Rohingya people, we insist that the world make good on the promise of ‘Never Again’ by following the evidence and acting swiftly and decisively.”

 

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About American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to pursue justice and fight poverty in the developing world. By supporting hundreds of social change organizations in 19 countries, we respond to the most pressing issues of our time—from disasters, genocide and hunger to the persecution of women and minorities worldwide. With Jewish values and a global reach, AJWS is making a difference in millions of lives and bringing a more just and equitable world closer for all. Learn more at www.ajws.org.

About American Jewish World Service’s work in Burma

For more than 15 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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