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Rubio, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Impose Sanctions on Burmese Officials for Rohingya Atrocities

Nov 2, 2017 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Todd Young (R-IN) led a bipartisan group of their colleagues today in introducing the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act, legislation that would impose targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on senior Burmese military officials responsible for the atrocities and systematic human rights abuses against the Rohingya people in Burma.
The legislation would prohibit certain military cooperation with the Burmese military until the Departments of State and Defense can certify that officials have halted the violence. The bill would also support economic and security sector reform, and encourage Burma’s successful transition of power to a civilian government. 
“Since late August, the Burmese military has engaged in a brutal campaign against the country’s Rohingya population, razing villages, raping women and killing innocent civilians,” said Rubio. “Many have been forced to flee their homes, and we cannot stand by and allow these atrocities to go on unchallenged. This bill will help hold accountable those responsible for these horrific crimes.”
“The systematic human rights abuses being committed against the Rohingya people in Burma demand a strong response from the United States and the international community,” said McCain. “More than 600,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes, hundreds of villages have been burned, and scores of civilians have been killed in a campaign of violence that the United Nations has called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing.’ Our legislation would hold accountable the senior military officials responsible for the slaughter and displacement of innocent men, women and children in Burma, and make clear that the United States will not stand for these atrocities.”  
“‘Never Again’ is happening again in Burma, where the military are committing ethnic cleansing and perpetrating atrocities against the Rohingya minority,” said Cardin. “This full-blown humanitarian crisis is happening under the watch of the international community, and this bill will allow Congress to strengthen the President’s hand by making it clear to Burmese officials that there will be consequences for their crimes against humanity.”
“The systematic campaign of violence and discrimination against the Rohingya is a horrifying humanitarian crisis,” said Durbin. “As a result of the latest military crackdown against this religious minority, countless Rohingya have been attacked, with reports of mass killing, rape, and the burning of entire villages. More than 600,000 have fled in desperation to camps in neighboring Bangladesh. These targeted sanctions against those responsible for these crimes will send a message that the United States will not tolerate persecution of these innocent men, women, and children.”
“The horrific situation in Burma requires American leadership and engagement to halt the ethnic cleansing, hold perpetrators accountable, and demand humanitarian access,” said Young. “This bill represents an important step toward achieving those goals.”
U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) also cosponsored the legislation.
Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Steve Chabot (R-OH), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Specifically, the Senate legislation would:

  • State the U.S. policy of calibrated engagement, which supports a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Burma that respects human rights of all of its people regardless of ethnicity and religion.
  • Authorize humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya, including refugees in Bangladesh, the region and implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission.
  • Instruct Treasury to only vote for international financial assistance projects that do not partner with the Burmese military owned enterprise.
  • Express the Sense of Congress calling on the Burmese government to ensure the right of returnees and to fully implement all of the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission.
  • Codify U.S.-Burma military to military cooperation restrictions.
  • Reimpose the U.S. jade and rubies ban and require a report on Burma GSP privileges.
  • Require a report on which individuals should be placed on visa bans and on the SDN list for senior Burmese military officials.
  • Require a report on promoting inclusive and responsible economic growth and development in Burma.
  • Require a report on accountability for ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide in Burma, a feasibility and desirability study of potential transitional justice mechanisms for Burma, and authorize technical assistance for it.