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Human Rights Organization Urges Passage of S.A 607

 “Increased support for a military brutalizing defenseless Rohingya is unconscionable”

Media contacts:
Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, 24/7, 011 339 236-0679
Shayna Lewis, UUSC, 617-301-4333

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Editors, producers: UUSC President and former US Congressman Tom Andrews is available for interviews by arrangement. Call Jan Dragin, (339) 236-0679 24/7

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Friday, September 08, 2017 —The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a U.S. based international human rights organization, today urged the U.S. Senate to oppose a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes an expansion of military ties with the Burmese military.  The group charged that the defense bill would further enable attacks against that country’s Rohingya minority civilians by the Burmese military – attacks that have caused a major humanitarian crisis in Burma and neighboring Bangladesh where 125,000 Rohingya have fled in the last two weeks.  That bill is expected to be up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

Tom Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer of UUSC and a former Member of the U.S. Congress, alternately urged in a statement today, “We ask all Senators to support Senate Amendment 607 to the National Defense Authorization Act that has been introduced by Senators Markey, Gardner and Cardin. That bipartisan amendment would cut off military assistance to Burma.”

In the statement, UUSC’s Andrews said:

“The United States can be doing much more to stop the systematic brutality being inflicted on many thousands of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma. At the very least, the U.S. should not be making things worse.

“That is precisely what will happen if next week the Senate passes the current of version of the NDAA, a defense authorization bill that will expand U.S. military ties to the military of Burma – a military that continues to lay the building blocks of genocide by engaging in systematic, brutal attacks against the Rohingya.

“Today, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a Senate resolution condemning the Burmese military’s violence against innocent members of the Rohingya ethnic minority, which we applaud. But their resolution will be undermined by the Senate if it passes the entire defense bill that Senator McCain’s committee will put on the floor for a vote next week As it is, that Section 1262 of the NDAA bill that McCain’s committee will introduce also includes a provision for the expansion of military-to-military engagement with the government of Burma.

“Over the past several days some 270,000 of the ethnic Rohingya population have been forced to run for their lives into neighboring Bangladesh from homes and villages destroyed by the military.

“Bangladesh Border Guards reported seeing machine guns and mortars fired by Burma’s military at those trying to flee. Hundreds of Rohingya are dead and untold numbers are being denied life-saving humanitarian aid. Many are stuck on the border where landmines were recently buried.

“A United Nations investigation earlier this year found that the military’s previous human rights violations were so systematic and widespread that they likely amount to crimes against humanity and Burma refuses to admit an international fact-finding mission into the country to investigate these claims.

“Burma military chief Min Aung Hlaing continues to oversee disproportionate and devastating military operations that have been marked by widespread reports of arbitrary killings and burned villages.

“For the U.S. to strengthen ties to a military as it kills defenseless people, destroys their villages and denies them humanitarian aid would be unconscionable.

“We ask all Senators to support Senate Amendment 607 to the NDAA that has been introduced by Senators Markey, Gardner and Cardin.”

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Today, UUSC’s Andrews joined with other rights agency leaders in sending a letter to Senator McCain’s office, urging McCain to strip Section 1262 from his bill. Co-signers to the letter included Robert Bank, President and CEO, American Jewish World Service, Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy, Human Rights First, Margaret Huang, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA, Sarah Margon, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch, Stephen Rickard, Director, Open Society Policy Center, and Eric P. Schwartz, President, Refugees International.

As well, UUSC has joined with other partners and International Nongovernmental Organizations to send a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking that UNHRC to pass a resolution on Burma, calling for an end to attacks on civilians and full access for humanitarian aid and independent observers.

The letter also calls for an extension to the UN’s Burma Fact Finding Mission on the Rohingya crisis, given Burma’s refusal to grant permission to the mission.

Andrews previously served as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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