Menendez, Young Call on Pompeo to Provide Rohingya Genocide Determination to Congress

Menendez, Young Call on Pompeo to Provide Rohingya Genocide Determination to Congress

   

WASHINGTON  – Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, noting that a State Department report released this week documented atrocities committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya but did not specifically define the atrocities as genocide or crimes against humanity. 

The Senators wrote, “We ask that you provide a formal legal determination regarding the actions of the Burmese military to Congress without delay.”  The report, titled “Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State” details the Burmese military’s campaign of terror against the Rohingya people, which has precipitated one of the worst refugee crises in decades.  In their letter, the Senators ask Secretary Pompeo whether this report had been referred to the State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor, which can make a determination of genocide or crimes against humanity.

In the letter, the Senators cited an excerpt of the report that said, “The scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated. In some areas, perpetrators used tactics that resulted in mass casualties, for example, locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya.”

Senators Menendez and Young commended the State Department for exhaustive documentation in the report, and thanked Secretary Pompeo for releasing it to the public. The report was published after Senator Menendez sent a letter last week calling for it to be made public.  Senator Young raised the issue in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday. 

Senator Menendez serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Young serves on the committee as well. 

The full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We thank you for the publication this week of the State Department’s report “Documentation of Atrocities in Northern Rakhine State.”

We commend the Department for its work to document the situation in Burma and Bangladesh in light of the atrocities committed by the Burmese military in Rakhine State.  We know that completing a report like this requires extraordinary dedication and work that is often undertaken under arduous and dangerous circumstances. 

As the report notes, “recent violence in northern Rakhine State was extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents. The scope and scale of the military’s operations indicate they were well-planned and coordinated. In some areas, perpetrators used tactics that resulted in mass casualties, for example, locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya.”

The report expertly documents these atrocities, but did not specifically define these atrocities as genocide or crimes against humanity.  Therefore, we would like to know if the report, and associated documents, have been referred to the Office of the Legal Advisor for a formal legal determination.  We ask that you provide a formal legal determination regarding the actions of the Burmese military to Congress without delay. 

Today at the United Nations, President Trump stated that “The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world…" We strongly concur.  For the United States to continue be that force for good – and if the words “Never Again” are to have meaning in practice – we must not hesitate to call atrocities like those committed by the Burmese military by name, identify the perpetrators, and take the necessary steps to hold them accountable.  

We look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the United States plays a leading role in providing assistance to afflicted populations, documenting crimes against humanity, and bringing to perpetrators to justice. 

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Press Contact

Juan Pachon (Menendez) (202) 224-4651