Remarks at an Event on Accountability for Atrocities in Burma Hosted by the Canadian Mission to the UN, Global Justice Center, and USHMM

Ambassador Lisa Carty
U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
September 28, 2022


Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much. It really is an honor to be here with you today.

I just have to start out by thanking Ambassador Rae for the really important points that you brought us to right at the start, which is that we need to be focused on success, but we need to be working much more broadly than just the way maybe governments have traditionally worked, and that civil society is absolutely our indisputable partner in this situation and so many other situations that are equally complicated that you alluded to where we need to just keep going in the face of tremendous obstacles. And that role of civil society here, I think, at the UN is especially important and is something we need to always keep a focus on is how we bring those voices – make them ever more present here.

It is such an honor to also be here with our panelists, and I know there are other activists listening and possibly in the room today. Thank you for your courage. I had the opportunity – it was a number of years ago, before the Tatmadaw regime – to actually visit Burma and to spend time with a lot of the women’s leadership groups, including out in the rural areas. And that visit has really stayed with me because of their resilience and the perseverance that I saw in those communities who had already endured so much. So, your voices are more important than ever.

Last month we commemorated the fifth anniversary of the horrific 2017 campaign against Rohingya, during which members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity. Many of these same military forces have participated in the coup and continue to repress, physically abuse, and kill the people of Burma in a blatant attempt to extinguish Burma’s democratic future.

As recently as September 16, Burmese armed forces attacked a school in Let Yet Kone in, killing at least 11 children and two adults. Since the February 2021 military coup approximately 380 children have lost their lives.

The regime’s executions of pro-democracy and opposition leaders in July is another example of the military’s abject disregard for the lives of the Burmese people. Its violence has exacerbated the worsening humanitarian situation, particularly for ethnic and religious minority communities, including Rohingya, who continue to remain among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in the country.

We are deeply troubled by the ongoing reports of human rights abuses, including the increase in gender-based violence. Women and girls in areas where fighting is ongoing are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and forced labor.

The United States remains committed to advancing justice and accountability for all people in Burma and stands in solidarity with the victims and the survivors.

Since 2017, the United States has supported Rohingya, recognizing that they cannot safely return to their homeland of Burma under current conditions. We have provided more than $1.7 billion to assist those affected by the crisis in Burma, in Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region, remaining the leading donor of humanitarian assistance.

Last week we were proud to announce $170 million in additional assistance to support the expansion of the Myanmar Curriculum, a major milestone towards offering all Rohingya children in Bangladesh an opportunity for a formal education. With the Government of Bangladesh’s endorsement of the UN’s Skills Development Framework, we look forward to supporting more livelihood and vocational training opportunities for Rohingya within the refugee camps.

Let me also highlight the concrete actions the United States has taken to ensure we address accountability and justice.

The United States has taken steps to support the case The Gambia has brought the International Court of Justice, asserting that Burma violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

We provide support to the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which has mandated to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Burma since 2011.

The United States works with international partners and NGOs to support brave Rohingya seeking justice in the courts of Argentina for the atrocities committed against them.

And we are working with the Rohingya community more broadly to help document atrocities and abuses. We stand ready to support a transitional justice process that respects victims’ demands for truth, reparation, justice, and non-recurrence – once that becomes viable.

Finally, Secretary Blinken has made clear that the United States, “supports measures by the UN Security Council to promote justice and accountability for the military’s actions…and would support a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.”

We want to be clear about the United States’ position on the need for accountability for victims of the Burmese military’s atrocities. We are open to all available options to help ensure there is justice.

Preventing the recurrence of atrocities, addressing the needs of victims, and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable are essential to address the military’s continued impunity and to ensure a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Burma that respects the human rights of all.

Justice may still feel like it is a long way off. Justice for these types of atrocities can take decades. But it can only happen through the efforts of victims, survivors, their advocates, and allies, laying the foundation year after year. The United States will keep working alongside you towards this end.

Thank you very much for this opportunity.