Yesterday, the EU adopted conclusions on the situation in Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia and Maldives.
In respect of Myanmar/Burma (particularly Rakhine State), the EU condemned the “ongoing widespread, systematic grave human rights violations committed by Myanmar/Burma military and security forces”. It also invited the High Representative to make proposals for an extension to the existing arms embargo, as well as targeted sanctions to be imposed against senior military officers of the Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) responsible for “serious and systematic human rights violations”. Links to the EU conclusions on Myanmar/Burma and the press release.
In respect of Cambodia, the EU decided that it might consider targeted measures if the “continu[ed] deterioration of democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law” in Cambodia failed to improve. It particular, the EU urged the Cambodian Government to “stop using the judiciary as a political tool to harass and intimidate political opponents, civil society, labour rights activists and human rights defenders”. Links to EU conclusions on Cambodia and the press release.
In relation to Maldives, the EU called on the competent Maldivian institutions to “lift immediately the state of emergency and restore all constitutionally guaranteed rights”. It also decided that if the current situation failed to improve, targeted measures might be considered. Links to EU conclusions on Maldives and the press release.
The Canadian Government has imposed targeted sanctions (asset freeze) against Burma’s former Major-General Maung Maung Soe, pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law), by amending the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Regulations.
Maung Maung Soe was sanctioned for being “responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights against the Rohingya in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State” which “forced more than 688,000 Rohingya to flee their country”. Canadian press release here.
OFAC added Maung Maung Soe to its Global Magnitsky sanctions list on 21 December 2017 (see previous blog here).
The US Committee on Foreign Relations has unanimously voted to report the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017 with amendments favourably to the US Senate.
The Bill – which was introduced to the Senate on 2 November 2017 – makes provision for the imposition of US visa bans and economic sanctions against “senior officials of the military and security forces of Burma” that have “played a direct and substantial role in the commission of human rights abuses in Burma, including against the Rohingya minority population”.
There are also measures prohibiting specific military cooperation between the US and Burma until the Secretary of Defence can certify that the Burmese military has demonstrated (inter alia) significant progress in abiding by international human rights standards.
The next stage is for the Senate to vote on the Bill. A similar Bill was also introduced on 2 November 2017 in the House of Representatives, see the Burma Act of 2017.
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.