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Joint Open Letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

10 Aug 2021

CSW joins 94 other organizations in calling on Secretary Blinken to declare the crimes committed against the Rohingya what they are: genocide.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We, the undersigned organizations, write to urge you to publicly determine that the state of Myanmar has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya people. We welcomed your launch of a process earlier this year to make such an official determination. Now, several months later, as the fourth anniversary of the brutal campaign against the Rohingya approaches - and with the ongoing risk of further atrocities - we urge you to publicly announce your determination and to refer to the crimes by their proper name: crimes against humanity and genocide.

The February 1st coup by the same military that perpetrated abuses against the Rohingya, and the ongoing abuses by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya, other ethnic groups, and the Burmese population in general, only underscore the importance of recognizing the military’s past crimes against the Rohingya for what they are. We have welcomed your attention to the coup and the sanctions measures you have imposed on those responsible. While the coup does not impact the factual and legal basis for a possible genocide determination, it does underscore the importance of the United States speaking forthrightly about gross abuses of human rights when they occur. Such action is critical in sending signals to governments and the Myanmar military, that abusers will be held accountable. Such signals also play a critical role in deterring further abuses.

In the case of the Rohingya, the evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity is clear and convincing and has been amply documented. As prominent legal and human rights experts, including former high-level State Department and White House officials (two of whom are now serving in senior positions in the Biden administration), concluded in a letter in August 2020 [attached]:

“[We] believe the information and assessments produced so far compels the United States, in its capacity as a government and not as a court, to publicly express its view that genocide has been committed and may be continuing against the Rohingya of Myanmar.”

The military coup places an increased urgency on this request as the last trappings of democratic restraints on the military are pulled away. The military’s actions are already greatly exacerbating the COVID pandemic and a growing humanitarian crisis. A U.S. government determination of genocide and crimes against humanity would subject Myanmar and its military to much needed international scrutiny at a time of increased risk of atrocities against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups including the Chin, Karen, Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan, as well as against the population of Myanmar as a whole, who have been targeted for opposing the coup. Such a determination would also be useful in exposing atrocities and preserving the truth ahead of any future transitional justice actions. A Rohingya genocide determination would in no way preclude further atrocity determinations regarding abuses committed by the military against other ethnic groups or others. Rather, it would demonstrate a commitment to evidence-based accountability as the struggle for a truly inclusive and representative democratic Myanmar continues.

A determination would also help to ensure continued international attention on the plight of the Rohingya, while enabling the United States to mobilize additional diplomatic and economic pressure on Myanmar to shift its behavior. This attention could offer a measure of protection for the Rohingya and others in Myanmar. It would also represent an expression of solidarity with the governments of Bangladesh and other refugee hosting countries, signaling the United States is committed both to accountability and supporting conditions for safe and voluntary return when conditions so permit.

Such a determination would be wholly consistent with findings of the Department of State, which concluded that the attacks on the Rohingya were “well-planned and coordinated” and that they were "extreme, large-scale, widespread, and seemingly geared toward both terrorizing the population and driving out the Rohingya residents." The law group engaged by the State Department to investigate atrocities against the Rohingya conducted its own legal analysis and found reasonable grounds to believe that genocide was committed. Several other independent groups have reached similar conclusions including Refugees International, the International State Crime Initiative, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Fortify Rights in collaboration with Covington & Burling LLP. The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to recognize that “atrocities committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese military and security forces since August 2017 constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.” A UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission similarly found “a pattern of conduct that infers genocidal intent on the part of the State to destroy the Rohingya, in whole or in part, as a group.” The Fact-Finding Mission has further warned, “The State of Myanmar continues to harbour genocidal intent and the Rohingya remain under serious risk of genocide.”

Now is the time to use the words that fit the crimes. U.S. leadership matters. We call upon you to demonstrate the moral leadership and courage necessary to push global action in the face of genocide.

Again, we welcome your review and urge you to finalize it quickly. Should you have any questions, please feel free to be in touch with Daniel Sullivan (


            1. 21Wilberforce

       2.     Action Corps

       3.     ALTSEAN-Burma

       4.     American Baptist Churches USA

       5.     Americans for Rohingya

       6.     Arakan Institute for Peace and Human Rights

       7.     Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

       8.     Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights

       9.     Arakan Rohingya Union

       10.  Baptist World Alliance

       11.  Bethany Christian Service

       12.  British Rohingya Community in UK

       13.  Burma Campaign UK

       14.  Burma Human Rights Network

       15.  Burma Rohingya Organization UK

       16.  Burma Task Force

       17.  Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan

       18.  Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark

        19.  Campaign for a New Myanmar

        20.  Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organization

        21.  Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative

       22.  Cantors’ Assembly

       23.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide

       24.  Coalition for Genocide Response

       25.  Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention

       26.  Dallas Karen Baptist Church

       27.  Darfur and Beyond

       28.  Darfur Women Action Group

       29.  DFW Karen Baptist Church

       30.  European Rohingya Council

       31.  Fortify Rights

        32.  Genocide Watch

       33.  Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

       34.  Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)

       35.  Global Witness

       36.  HIAS

       37.  Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

       38.  Human Rights Development for Myanmar

       39.  Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council

       40.  Institute for Asian Democracy

       41.  Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP) at Binghamton University

       42.  International Campaign for the Rohingya

       43.  International Interfaith Peace Corps

       44.  International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), Queen Mary University of London

       45.  Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

       46.  Jewish Rohingya Justice Network

       47.  Jewish World Watch

       48.  Justice for All

       49.  Justice4Rohingya UK

       50.  Kachin Alliance

       51.  Karen American Association of Wisconsin

       52.  Karen Association of Huron, South Dakota

       53.  Karen Organization of America

       54.  Karenni-American Association

       55.  Karen Community of Iowa

       56.  Karen Community of Kansas City (KS & MO)

       57.  Karen Community of Minnesota

       58.  Karen Organization of Minnesota

       59.  L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty

       60.  Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

       61.  Never Again Coalition

       62.  No Business With Genocide

       63.  Partners Relief and Development

       64.  Progressive Voice

       65.  Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

       66.  Queensland Rohingya Community Inc

       67.  Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

       68.  Refugee Congress

       69.  Refugees International

       70.  Rhode Island Board of Rabbis

       71.  Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

       72.  Rock Island Karen Community

       73.  Rohingya Action Ireland

       74.  Rohingya American Society

       75.  Rohingya Human Rights Monitoring Network

       76.  Rohingya Initiative Canada

       77.  Rohingya Post

       78.  Rohingya Refugee Network

       79.  Rohingya Society in Malaysia

       80.  Rohingya Student Union

       81.  Rohingya Women’s Empowerment and Advocacy Network

       82.  Rohingya Youth for Legal Action

       83.  RohingyaKhobor

       84.  Society for Humanistic Judaism

        85.  STAND: The student-led movement to end mass atrocities

       86.  The Burmese Rohingya Association of North America

        87.  The Sound of Hope

        88.  Union for Reform Judaism

        89.  Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

       90.  United States Campaign for Burma

        91.  Voice of Rohingya

        92.  Win Without War

       93.  WITNESS

       94.  Women Peace Network

       95.  World Rohingya Organization




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