“Genocide” is a word sometimes used colloquially for conflicts with large, targeted campaigns and high civilian death rates. It is also used in official capacities, with specific definitions — in Article II of the UN’s “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,” Genocide is defined:
[Genocide is] any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
When a country says another nation is responsible for a “genocide,” it is a very politically volatile move. Many countries, even the U.N., are known to tiptoe around the word, as it would very reasonably require an extreme, follow-up response. And so they tend to call it something else.
There have been countless sources of documentation in Myanmar of mass executions, using rape as a weapon, dashing children against trees — the list is long, and most recently they are targeted at the Rohingya people. Almost 700,000 Rohingya have been driven from their homes and into tight refugee camps on the border of Bangladesh. The targeting has been clearly directed at the Rohingya as a whole, not at militants or people within a specific border — the Rohingya people themselves have been marked by the Myanmar government.
And now it seems that the U.S. is deliberating whether or not to define the actions the Myanmar/Burmese government has taken in Rakhine State as genocide. POLITICO recently received a leak from a statement to be given by U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in which the word “genocide” was used. The word was crossed out, followed by a note that read: “hold for determination.”
Dancing around the word “genocide” is something that countries have long done, lest they feel compelled to do something about it. That doesn’t even mean military action — sanctions, strong condemnations on an international scale — the word “genocide” demands action.
The U.N. even went so far as to outright call it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” though they too shy away from using the term “genocide.” The closest they have come was when the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, said that, “I am becoming more convinced that the crimes committed following 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability.”
Both the American Republicans and Democrats have been largely critical of the treatment of the Rohingya, in spite of the Islamic extremist angle the state-sponsored Myanmar media has tried to push.
Featured image: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, waits for the start of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, April 27, 2018. NATO is set on Friday to hold its last major meeting in its old headquarters, with talks focused on strained ties with Russia, a fresh peace effort in Afghanistan and a new training mission for Iraq. | AP Photo/Virginia Mayo