By UUSC Staff on January 27, 2021
Today, UUSC once again commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day. With the horrific murder of six million Jews and the death of 11 million others during the Second World War, the Holocaust will forever remain an unconscionable reminder of the depths of hate and evil that humanity must reject and overcome to promote peace, human rights, and equity. As the organization founded by Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp’s rescuing Jewish refugees in Europe during the Nazi campaign of genocide, today holds particular significance for UUSC as we honor those who died, but also continue to shine a light on those who have fought and those who still suffer in the face of violence, tyranny, and authoritarianism.
A year ago today, we wrote about the evolving path to justice that was being laid out for the Rohingya Muslim minority from western Rakhine State in Burma, also referred to as Myanmar. The Rohingya have faced an ongoing apartheid in Burma and violent mass displacement to Bangladesh, a situation which many legal experts have determined as genocide and other mass atrocity crimes committed by the Burmese state and military. After a flurry of legal activity in late 2019 and early 2020, the prospects for international justice through open cases at the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, and in Argentinian courts under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, offer some long-term hope for justice and accountability.
However, the opportunities for supporting grassroots justice for Rohingya communities and victims of genocide are now more tangible than ever. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting Rohingya refugee and displaced communities at a severity compounded by their already fragile humanitarian situation, the international community should urgently double down its efforts to ensure that Rohingya victims of genocide are not forgotten.
With a new president in the White House, there is an opportunity for UUSC and other Americans to call for a more concrete approach to supporting the Rohingya, one that is rooted in human rights, justice, and accountability. It has been recently reported that the Biden Administration will soon look into making a legal determination of genocide as it relates to the human rights abuses suffered by the Rohingya, which have been carefully documented over the years by international human rights groups, the United Nations, as well as the U.S. State Department. A genocide determination by the United States would not only bolster the prospects for international justice through the mechanisms already in play, but would also signal to the world that our country is serious about its international human rights responsibilities and supports and prioritizes an end to impunity.
In addition, a genocide determination could serve as a key signal and turning point in existing development approaches to the vast humanitarian crisis that Rohingya refugees and IDPs face by including and prioritizing broader social and civil society development programs, such as education, health, community development, and civic engagement, which would aim to build more just and equitable systems that are owned and led by Rohingya themselves.
In the next month, UUSC is excited to release a critical piece of policy research that, based on an analysis of U.S. assistance in Burma and our own experience supporting Rohingya and other ethnic human rights and humanitarian activists over 25 years, could contribute critical new ideas to overcoming generations of atrocities and place us in a position where we can confidently and effectively say, “Never Again.”
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Image Credit: iStock – Joel Carillet