The US House of Representatives has passed a Resolution “condemning ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya and calling for an end to the attacks in and an immediate restoration of humanitarian access to the state of Rakhine in Burma”. Among other things, the Resolution calls on the President to impose sanctions on “those responsible for human rights abuses, including members of Burma’s military and security services”. The Resolution will now move to the Senate for approval.
The US Department of State has issued a statement on the “current crisis in Rakhine state”, expressing its “gravest concern with recent events”, including “the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured”. It further stated that “it is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”
In addition to the existing restrictions on US engagement with Burma’s armed forces and the US embargo on all military sales, the US has stated that it will be taking “actions in pursuit of accountability and an end to violence”. Those actions include: ceasing consideration of travel waivers for current and former senior leadership of the Burmese military; considering economic options available to “target individuals associated with atrocities”; and exploring accountability mechanisms under US law, including Global Magnitsky targeted sanctions.
The Council of the EU has issued a statement of its conclusions calling on all sides to bring an immediate end to all violence in Rakhine State. It confirmed “the relevance of the current EU restrictive measures which consist of an embargo on arms and on equipment that can be used for internal repression”, and has said that “the Council may consider additional measures if the situation does not improve but also stands ready to respond accordingly to positive developments.”
Human Rights Watch has called on the UN to impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo on Burma/Myanmar’s military, in response to the “ethnic cleansing campaign” against Rohingya Muslims. It called on the Security Council to ask that Burma allow humanitarian aid agencies to access people in need, permit entry to a UN fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations, and ensure the safe and voluntary return of displaced people. The Human Rights Watch press release is here.
The EU has renewed its sanctions against Burma/Myanmar for another year, until 30 April 2018. The sanctions impose an embargo on providing Burma/Myanmar with arms and goods that might be used for internal repression. Before April 2013, the EU also had trade, financial, and targeted sanctions in place, but those have now been lifted (see previous blog).
See Decision (CFSP) 2017/734 amending Decision 2013/184/CFSP.
President Obama has lifted a prohibition on providing government to government assistance to the Myanmar government, in a Presidential Determination. This also ends the ban on granting visas to government officials from Burma, and the requirement that the US vote in international financial institutions against providing assistance or loans to Burma.
The Obama administration has been steadily lifting US sanctions on Burma/Myanmar, in response to its “substantial advances to promote democracy…the release of many political prisoners, and greater enjoyment of human rights” (see previous blog). Sanctions imposed by the US Congress, relating to arms and military cooperation, remain in force.
As foreshadowed, President Obama has ended the national emergency declared in respect of Burma/Myanmar, lifting the sanctions that first came into force in 1997 in response to a “pattern of severe repression” by the Burmese regime (see previous blog). The Executive Order states that “Burma’s substantial advances to promote democracy…the release of many political prisoners, and greater enjoyment of human rights” had significantly altered the situation since the sanctions were introduced. The sanctions restricted trade in precious stones and doing business with some of Myanmar’s military officials and their associates. Separate US sanctions on Burma relating to arms and military cooperation remain in force. The US Treasury has published a Fact Sheet and FAQ on the changes, along with the details of the related de-listings, here.
President Obama has said that the USA will lift most of its sanctions on Burma/Myanmar, in recognition of the country’s moves towards democracy.
Currently, US sanctions restrict trade in precious stones, and doing business with some of Myanmar’s military officials and their associates. US sanctions relating to arms and military cooperation, will not be affected. The US Treasury’s new FAQ on the announcement is here.