Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

UUSC Urges Congressional Action Now on Burma Crisis

Immediate targeted sanctions, an arms embargo, and push for prosecution of crimes against humanity are needed now.

 Appreciation for letters and condemnation, says UUSC head Andrews, ‘but real action needed now’

Calls for immediate targeted sanctions, an arms embargo, and push for prosecution of crimes against humanity

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


NEW YORK, New York/CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— Friday, September 29, 2017— Unabated atrocities in Burma against thousands of minority Rohingya civilians requires U.S. congressional action now, according to the head of human rights organization the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).

UUSC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Andrews spoke out this morning, in response to an awakening of outrage this week among lawmakers in Washington and to Thursday’s special session on Burma by the U.N. Security Council, saying “As much as we appreciate words of condemnation from members of Congress and letters urging Secretary of State Tillerson to consider sanctions and reconsider U.S. policy with Burma, real action is needed now. There is not a moment to lose.”

Andrews is a former Member of Congress who travelled to Burma and refugee camps in Bangladesh earlier this year. He met with dozens of Rohingya families who had escaped to Bangladesh after the first wave of military attacks against Rohingya villages in Rakhine State in Burma.

Since August 25, the Burmese military have torched villages, shot, raped, and killed ethnic minority Rohingya men, women, and children, causing more than half a million people to flee over the border into neighboring Bangladesh — a purge being described as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

“Congress must act now with emergency legislation that imposes targeted sanctions on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and all other military leaders responsible for the unspeakable atrocities that have been inflicted on the Rohingya people,” said Andrews, “as well as sanctions that prohibit any U.S. military cooperation with the military of Burma.”

UUSC’s Andrews urged Congress to publicly press the administration in seeking the strongest possible measures by the U.N. Security Council. “Those measures should include targeted sanctions, an arms embargo and referral to the International Criminal Court that would allow charges of crimes against humanity to be brought against Burma’s military leaders,” he said.

“Finally, Congress must urge the Trump administration to demand unfettered international humanitarian access to Rakhine State and authorize a robust humanitarian aid effort in conjunction with other nations, to protect the lives of the more than half a million Rohingya who were forced into Bangladesh, and to protect all of those who remain imperiled in their home villages in Rakhine,” said Andrews.

“The Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State in Burma are in great peril,” Andrews said. “In addition to the brutal attacks and unspeakable violence against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, UUSC has learned from our partners in Rakhine that those remaining in Burma are facing more violence.

“Untold numbers of people have been cut off from their livelihoods and are facing starvation as the military blocks supplies of food and humanitarian assistance.”

“We have heard that human traffickers could soon begin another mass exodus of Rohingya, pushing them out to sea in unsafe boats— just as the world watched them do two years ago.”

Andrews said the U.S. should make it clear to Burma’s leaders that Rohingya forced into Bangladesh must have the right to return home in safety. However, according to Agence France-Presse, it is unclear how many of the Rohingya refugees will be eligible for return, as Burma no longer recognizes them as citizens.

On September 27, the Burmese government announced it was assuming management of the torched land and villages and plans for its redevelopment, raising concerns about the regime’s now stated intentions to allow the return of Rohingya who fled their Rakhine homes.

“The recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan must be fully implemented, as State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi promised weeks ago,” Andrews said.

Eighty-eight international rights groups petition United Nations to adopt resolution on Burma

On Thursday, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee joined 88 human rights organizations who signed a statement issued by UUSC’s partner Fortify Rights, urging the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a resolution calling for immediate measures including targeted sanctions, to impel Burma to end its crimes against humanity.

As UUSC continues its advocacy in Washington and abroad, UUSC has also issued a national fundraising appeal for its humanitarian response to the dire needs of Rohingya refugees in the Bangladesh camps.

Andrews said, “This tragedy continues to unfold as Congress, our administration and the United Nations remain in hover mode. It is time to act.” Concerns of a health crisis in the camps are mounting as people continue to arrive in the burgeoning border camps.