Senator Collins Joins Bipartisan Group in Urging Secretary Pompeo to Release Findings on Atrocities Against Rohingyas

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in writing to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding the Rohingya refugee crisis.  The bipartisan group of Senators urged Secretary of State Pompeo to publicly release the complete State Department report containing findings that document atrocities committed by Burmese security forces against Rohingyas and to take appropriate actions against individuals or entities involved in the violent campaign.     

 

The full text of their letter is below: 

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

 

We write to you regarding our continued concern for Burma’s Rohingya population. We were pleased to learn that you support the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), and the Office for Global Criminal Justice (GCJ) efforts to document atrocities committed by Burmese security forces against Rohingya civilians.  DRL and GCJ are now preparing for you a report, that will analyze over 1,000 interviews with Rohingya civilians, documenting the atrocities to which they have been subjected.   The evidence collected in this report will be critical in holding Burmese military officials accountable for their crimes. We therefore urge you to publicly release the entire report, including any findings of crimes against humanity and genocide. It is of vital importance that the report be scrupulously fact-based and retain its integrity, irrespective of any diplomatic or political considerations. We also urge you to use all tools at your disposal to respond to the crisis, including through existing law that allows for targeted sanctions against Burmese individuals or entities who were involved in the violent campaign against the Rohingya. 

 

We commend the strong statement from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who characterized the actions of the Burmese authorities as, “a brutal sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.”   According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since August 2017, approximately 693,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Burma due to targeted violence and grave human rights violations perpetrated by Burmese military officials—including mass murder, rape, and arson.  Thousands of Rohingya women were subjected to horrific sexual violence, many of whom are now due to give birth in Bangladeshi refugee camps.  At every turn, the Government of Burma has blocked access to Rakhine State by humanitarian groups and neutral observers such as the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar.

 

We strongly support the State Department’s ongoing efforts to address the needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and those Rohingya who are internally displaced in Burma, and are encouraged by the Department’s investigation into the atrocities committed. It is our sincere hope that the investigation will prompt a process that will bring justice to the Rohingya victims and accountability to the security forces that perpetrated these brutal crimes. We urge you to publicly release the Department of State’s report immediately upon its conclusion, per your commitment in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 24, 2018. 

 

In addition, we urge you to press the Government of Burma to fully implement any memorandum of understanding with UNHCR and UNDP that would create the conditions to facilitate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to their homes in Burma. We also urge you to push for UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to urgently be provided unhindered access in Rakhine State, in order to assess the humanitarian situation, provide support to those in need who are still in Rakhine, and facilitate any future voluntary repatriation of refugees.

 

The violence since August 2017 was just the latest episode in the brutal crackdown against the Rohingya, who like other violently persecuted minorities in Burma, have faced deep-seeded prejudices for generations. That is why there can be no meaningful resolution to the Rohingya crisis without the full adoption of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission.

 

We look forward to working with you on this important matter.

 

Sincerely,