Talking to Your Treasurer About Genocide

How can you make your university take action to end genocide?

One way would be to press your university to use the power of its investments.

Educational institutions invest trillions of dollars, primarily through their endowments. As shareholders, universities are partial owners of thousands of publicly traded companies. Through those ownership stakes, unviersities can put pressure on corporations to stop doing business with governments engaged in genocide. This kind of shareholder activism can be more powerful than selling – or divesting – stock in companies.

Does your university own stock in Chevron? It likely does because Chevron is a very widely held company. For two years, shareholders of Chevron have filed a shareholder resolution putting pressure on the oil company, the largest U.S. investor in Burma (Myanmar), to adopt a policy of not doing business with government engaged in genocide or crimes against humanity. In 2017, that resolution received the votes of approximately 6% of shareholders at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting. Since then, it is reported that Chevron has raised issues of human rights with the Burmese government.

International Campaign for the Rohingya is working with shareholders owning over $50 billion in assets to put pressure on all of the oil companies in Burma. This shareholder group has also pressed major jewelry retailers not to buy gems that profit the Burmese army.

How can you successfully press your university to join the growing number of shareholders taking action to end genocide? You can start by asking your university treasurer some key questions.

  • What stocks does the university own? Does it own Chevron?

Many educational institutions, especially public universities, make public their stock holdings. Many others will simply provide that information on request. Some will only reveal their holdings after feeling pressure from a campaign asking for disclosure.

Zero in on your university’s direct holdings of shares. Those are shares that your university owns outright and can vote in favor of shareholder resolutions such as the one at Chevron.

  • Does the university have a policy guiding how it votes its shares?

Some universities have developed a policy guiding how they vote their shares on resolutions raising environmental, social, and governances (ESG) issues. Ask for a copy of the current policy and request that it include a provision that the university vote in favor of resolutions asking companies to adopt a policy of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide or crimes against humanity.

  • How has the university voted its shares in the past?

Some universities publish a report showing how they voted on each shareholder resolution. Whether this is public or not, find out whether your university held Chevron stock in 2017 and, if so, how it voted those shares on the resolution pressing the company to adopt a policy of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide or crimes against humanity.

  • Does the university work with other shareholders to promote corporate responsibility?

Some universities are members of US SIF – The Forum for Sustainable and Reponsible Investment, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Principles for Responsible Investment, or the Council of Institutional Investors. If your university is a member, ask what help and resources they are receiving to address issues concerning ending genocide.

  • Would the university adopt a formal policy of using its investments to help end genocide?

Ask your university to join the growing “No Business With Genocide” campaign. International Campaign for the Rohingya is working with a growing coalition of investors and NGOs. We are ready to work with you and your university to develop policies and practices that help end the genocide of the Rohingya.

  • How can students and faculty influence the university’s investment policies and practices?

Some universities, such as Harvard, have an advisory committee on shareholder responsibility that helps develop policies and practices. Ask to participate.

If your university lacks such an avenue to influence its investments, launch a campaign to pass a resolution in your student government, faculty council, and/or board of trustees. Develop petitions and hold rallies. Meet with your university administration. Use every pressure point to persuade your university to step up and help end genocide.

The Responsible Endowments Coalition publishes how-to guides  for students and faculty on university endowmentsdivestment, and shareholder advocacy. Read them to prepare yourselves on how to best influence your university to help end genocide.

 

Press Release: Historic New “End Genocide Bill” Introduced in Maryland General Assembly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (Baltimore City – District 41) has introduced an historic new bill to ensure that Maryland spends and invests taxpayers’ money in a manner that reflects Maryland values of upholding human rights and opposition to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Maryland End Genocide Bill (HB 1787) will require that the State of Maryland spend and invest taxpayers money in accordance with Maryland values. It seeks to ensure that the State of Maryland, through its spending and investing of taxpayers’ money, uses its influence to press corporations to adopt a formal policy of refusing to do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.

Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (Baltimore City – District 41)

“With this bill, we will ensure that Maryland citizens’ tax dollars will be spent ethically and invested responsibly. It is an expression of Maryland citizens’ values that we use our taxpayer dollars to press companies to refuse to do business with governments engaged in genocide or crimes against humanity.”

Simon Billenness, Executive Director, International Campaign for the Rohingya

“We welcome the State of Maryland in using its influence to press companies to reconsider doing business with the government of Burma (Myanmar). We hope that this pressure will help end Burma’s genocide of the Rohingya people.”

Wa’el Alzayat, Chief Executive Director, Emgage Action

“Governments require corporate investment and trade. But no government can expect to do business as usual if it engages in genocide or crimes against humanity. We can deny corporations our investment and our purchases until they refuse to support governments that engage in these grave abuses of human rights.”

Contacts:
Maryland Delegate Bilal Ali (Baltimore City – District 41)
(410) 841-3268
bilal.ali@house.state.md.us
http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/06hse/html/msa17369.html

ABOUT MARYLAND DELEGATE BILAL ALI
Mr. Bilal Abdul Malik Ali serves as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly representing Maryland’s District 41. He serves on the House Ways and Means committee.[2] He is a member of the Baltimore City Delegation and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.

Simon Billenness, Executive Director, International Campaign for the Rohingya
(617) 596-6158
simon.billenness@rohingyacampaign.org
www.rohingyacampaign.org

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE ROHINGYA
The International Campaign for the Rohingya advocates and amplifies the voice of the Rohingya with international organizations, governments, corporations, and civil society. Its mission is to help the Rohingya secure peace, security, and their rights wherever they reside. As a member of the “No Business With Genocide” campaign, International Campaign for the Rohingya presses corporations to speak out to end the genocide of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar).

Iman Awad, National Legislative Director, Emgage Action
(443) 417-0139
iawad@emgageusa.org
www.emgageusa.org

Emgage Action mobilizes Muslim Americans in support of key issues from criminal justice reform to healthcare to human rights, and prepares them for effective advocacy based on principled positions that uphold our values as Americans and as Muslims.

Key Provisions of the Maryland End Genocide Bill (HB 1787)

Full text of the bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2018RS/bills/hb/hb1787F.pdf

Procurement
The Maryland End Genocide Bill (HB 1787) will direct the state government, beginning on January 1st, 2020, to enter into contracts with only those corporations that have adopted a formal policy of refusing to do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.

Investment
The bill require the State Treasurer to ensure that any shares held by the State are voted in favor of shareholder resolutions that ask companies to adopt a policy of refusing to do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.

Market Participation
In both the procurement and investment provisions of the bill, the State of Maryland will act as a market participant. The State of Maryland will act in the marketplaces for goods, services, and capital just as any other consumer or investor does, free to apply both financial and ethical criteria in its purchasing and investing.

Establishment of the Maryland Commission on Genocide Prevention
The bill will establish the Maryland Commission on Genocide Prevention to research which governments are at risk of committing genocide or crimes against humanity, identify corporations that do business with those governments, and hold hearings on the implementation of the Act.

Overall Impact
Overall, the impact of the bill will be to use the State of Maryland’s procurement and investment processes to create market incentives for corporations to adopt a policy of refusing to do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.

  • The State of Maryland will join the citizens of Maryland and around the world who use ethical purchasing practices to influence corporations to help end genocide.
  • The State of Maryland will also join the shareholders of Chevron who in 2017 voted more than 72,000 of their shares in favor of a resolution asking the company to adopt a policy of refusing to do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity.
  • The State of Maryland will also highlight and develop further ways in which the State can help end genocide through the work of its Maryland Commission on Genocide Prevention.

About End Genocide Laws

During the American Revolution, town meetings adopted resolutions calling for a boycott of British-made goods. The Boston Tea Party seized on the spirit of these resolutions through its historic act of dumping British tea in Boston Harbor. This revolutionary campaign is captured in T.H. Breen’s book “The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence.” It was in part through this “boycott British” campaign that the American colonies united and rose up to secure their independence.

City and state “End Genocide” laws build on this American tradition. These laws follow in the footsteps of other similar successful campaigns. In the 1980s, the anti-apartheid movement forced corporations to divest from South Africa under pressure from municipal and state laws. In the 1990s, over 100 corporations withdrew from Burma (Myanmar) after Massachusetts and over 20 cities passed laws effectively boycotting companies doing business in the country. In the 2000s, the Save Darfur campaign mobilized pressure on oil companies in Sudan. Today, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is succeeding in mobilizing state and local government to tackle climate change.

By passing a Genocide Prevention Law, a city or state can express its citizens’ values while also ensuring that, by its spending and investment of taxpayer dollars, it represents its citizens’ values as an actor in the marketplace for goods, services, and capital. In so doing, the city or state will also act in solidarity with people at risk of genocide or other grave human rights abuses.

For more information, read “End Genocide, Starting With Your Hometown.”

End Genocide, Starting With Your Hometown

By Simon Billenness, Executive Director, International Campaign for the Rohingya

We have an honorable American tradition of our cities and states upholding human rights. Now is the time for us to demand that our taxpayer dollars don’t contribute to genocide.

During the American Revolution, town meetings adopted resolutions calling for a boycott of British-made goods. The Boston Tea Party seized on the spirit of these resolutions through its historic act of dumping British tea in Boston Harbor. This revolutionary campaign is captured in T.H. Breen’s book “The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence.” It was in part through this “boycott British” campaign that the American colonies united and rose up to secure their independence.

City and state “end genocide” laws build on this American tradition. These laws follow in the footsteps of other American campaigns and movements. The American abolitionist movement worked with local and state governments on measures to help end slavery. Starting in the 1950s, the movements for civil rights and women’s equality successful lobbied for municipal, county, and state preferences and requirements for certain contractors to develop plans to subcontract to minority and women-owned businesses.

In the 1980s, the anti-apartheid movement forced corporations to divest from South Africa under pressure from municipal and state laws. In the 1990s, over 100 corporations withdrew from Burma (Myanmar) after Massachusetts and over 20 cities passed laws effectively boycotting companies doing business in the country. In the 2000s, the Save Darfur campaign mobilized pressure on oil companies in Sudan. Today, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is succeeding in mobilizing state and local government to tackle climate change.

By passing an end genocide resolution or law, a city, county, or state can express its citizens’ values in its spending and its investment of taxpayer dollars as an actor in the marketplace for goods, services, and capital. In so doing, the city or state will also act in solidarity with people at risk of genocide, crimes against humanity, and other mass atrocities.

By passing an “End Genocide Law,” we can ensure that our hometowns will help end genocide through the spending and investment of our taxpayer dollars. We can ensure that our cities and our states will use their power as consumers and an investors to put effective pressure on corporations not to do business with regimes perpetuating genocide.

How Does This Help End Genocide?

The mission of our “No Business With Genocide” campaign is is to pressure key corporations to adopt a policy of not doing business with regimes complicit in genocide and/or crimes against humanity.  We can achieve this by using our power as shareholders, consumers, and citizens. 

Governments rely on the investments and services of foreign corporations. Consequently, any threat of withdrawal by key corporations can serve as a deterrent to prevent governments from crossing certain lines, such as committing genocide.

Our power is not just as individuals. We also have considerable power as citizens to demand that our city and our state also use the consumer and investor power​ of the billions of our taxpayer dollars.

What would be the impact of our local “End Genocide” campaigns? In the course of our campaign to make your hometown enact an “End Genocide Law,” we could achieve the following:

  • Educate our neighbors about the risks of genocide across the world and what they can do about it in our hometowns;
  • Highlight corporations that support governments engaged in or considering committing genocide and/or crimes against humanity;
  • Put billions of dollars of our tax dollars to work influencing corporations to, in turn, pressure governments to avoid committing genocide or other crimes against humanity;
  • Provide a foundation for you and your neighbors to engage as citizens with your local city and state representatives;
  • Make our hometowns play their part in a growing global movement to end genocide.

 What Do “End Genocide Laws” Do?

A city, county, or state “End Genocide Bill” is made up of four parts:

  • Findings and Definitions
  • Procurement Provisions
  • Investment Provisions
  • Establishment of Genocide Prevention Commission

In the findings, the city or state declares how the bill puts into practice its citizens’ values. The wording can include:

  1. Whereas, the citizens of [city/state] hold as their values universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  2. Whereas, the [city/state] routinely purchases from and invests in corporations with global operations and supply chains;
  3. Whereas, the citizens of [city/state] recognize the important role local communities can take to promote the practice of ethical procurement and ethical investment in accordance with their values.

The bill should use the definition of genocide contained in the Genocide Convention. Crimes Against Humanity should be defined according to Article 10 of the Rome Statute.

Procurement Provisions

The city or state would use its power as multi-million or multi-billion dollar consumer of goods and services to put pressure on corporations in the marketplace for goods and services.

Effective immediately, in its RFPs and contracts, the city or state would require contractors to disclose any company policy that they have of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide and/or crimes against humanity.

Within two years, in its RFPs and contracts, the city or state would require contractors to have a written and formally adopted company policy of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide and/or crimes against humanity.

These provisions would apply to any contractor with the state with annual revenues of certain amount, such as $100 million or greater.

Investment Provisions

The city or state would use its power as a shareholder – or part owner – of corporations to put direct pressure on corporate management.

The city or state will require that its investment managers:

  • vote the city or state’s shares in favor of shareholder resolutions that ask companies to adopt a policy of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide and/or crimes against humanity
  • file an annual public report with the City Comptroller or State Treasurer on the investment manager’s use of shareholder advocacy with the city or state’s portfolio companies to persuade those companies to adopt and implement a policy of not doing business with governments engaged in genocide and/or crimes against humanity

Establishment of an “End Genocide Commission”

The city or state will establish an “End Genocide Commission.”  For State commissions, two members could each be appointed by the Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Senate President, and Assembly Speaker. City commissions could be appointed half by the mayor and half by the city council.

The purpose of the “End Genocide Commission” would be to:

  • Research and publish annual report on:
    1. countries committing and/or “at risk” of committing genocide and/or crimes against humanity
    2. city or state contractors doing business in those countries
  • Convene periodic hearings on how city or state officials are implementing the procurement and investment provisions of the End Genocide Law
  • Create a local institution with government funding that can further the goals of the broader local, national, and international movement to prevent genocide and/or crimes against humanity

Now is the time for us to step up and make a difference. We can do this starting in our home towns. Working together, we can be the grassroots campaigners who will build the global movement to end genocide. 

To join the campaign to end genocide, click here to contact the International Campaign for the Rohingya.

We can provide you with advice, materials to share with your city council member and state legislator, and connect you with activists around the world campaigning to enact their local “End Genocide Law.”

Press Release: ARSA Ambush No Excuse For Further Violence Against Rohingya

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARSA Ambush No Excuse For Further Violence Against Rohingya

January 7, 2018

International Campaign for the Rohingya condemns the ambush on January 5, 2018, by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) of a military vehicle in Burma’s Rakhine State, which wounded five members of the Burmese security forces. Today, ARSA issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack.

International Campaign for the Rohingya condemns violence by all sides in Rakhine State and remains resolutely committed to using only peaceful means to end the repression and violence by Burma’s army against Rohingya communities in Burma (Myanmar).

The Burmese army exploited similar attacks by ARSA in August 2017 as a pretext for military operations that included attacks on Rohingya civilians. Those attacks by the Burmese army drove over 600,000 Rohingya to seek refuge in Bangladesh and were rightly condemned as “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and the United States.

“International Campaign for the Rohingya is deeply concerned that the Burmese army will exploit this ambush as a pretext to speed its march towards genocide of the Rohingya people. International Campaign for the Rohingya will respond to any act of violence against Rohingya civilians by the Burmese army by working to increase the sanctions by governments and citizens on the Burmese army, military officers and commanders, and business interests of the Burmese military,” stated Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya.

Simon Billenness
Executive Director
International Campaign for the Rohingya
(617) 596-6158 (cell)
simon.billenness@rohingyacampaign.org
www.rohingyacampaign.org

Joseph K. Grieboski
Board Chair
International Campaign for the Rohingya
(202) 594-8999 (cell)
jgrieboski@gjccorp.com

No Genocide Gems! Burma’s Military Takes a Hit From Citizens Sanctions

By Emily Claire Goldman and Simon Billenness

On December 6th, Cartier made the dramatic announcement that it would stop its purchase of gems from Burma (Myanmar). This sudden shift was due to consumer pressure on Cartier to stop selling “genocide gems.” This demonstrates the growing power of “citizens sanctions” on the Burmese army’s business interests.

Cartier faced mounting pressure from more than 70,000 consumers organized by International Campaign for the Rohingya and SumOfUs, some of whom posted their opposition on Cartier’s Facebook page to its sale of “genocide gems.” In response, Cartier announced on its Facebook page that, “as part of [its] continuous review process to ensure ethical sourcing, Cartier has decided to stop purchasing gemstones from Myanmar, which will become fully effective as of December 8.

The Sunday Times (UK) quickly picked up on the story with its article “Taint of Burma’s Genocide Gems.

The Case For Sanctions on Burma’s Army

Since August, Burmese military forces have carried out a textbook example of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. This systematic, targeted and deliberate campaign of violence against civilians – what human rights experts have called crimes against humanity – has sparked international condemnation and raised concerns that the Burmese military is marching on the path to genocide.

In the past year alone, Burma’s army has forced more than 626,000 people from their homes in attacks reminiscent of those in Bosnia and Rwanda in the early 1990s. Despite Burmese government officials’ efforts to restrict UN investigators’ and journalists’ access to affected areas, reports have consistently documented grave human rights abuses committed by Burmese military forces, including “deliberately burning people to death inside their homes; murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls; and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques.”

Burma’s incomplete transition to democracy has been marked by a power-sharing agreement between the civilian government – led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) – and the military. Under this agreement, the NLD government operates under the military-written constitution that allows the army to retain significant control over the country’s political and economic affairs. The military avoids civilian oversight and judicial scrutiny, allowing it to avoid accountability for grave human rights abuses. This is evident with the recent self-exonerating report released by the military, claiming that an independent investigation into allegations of grave human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Rakhine State cleared them of any wrongdoing in the atrocities.

Burma’s Military-Commercial Complex

Burma’s military has built up extensive commercial interests in mining and extraction over fifty years of military rule.

Military-owned companies include Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a secretive conglomerate owned by the defense ministry, and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), both of which are heavily involved in the country’s gemstone sector. Myanmar Gems Enterprise (MGE), a state-owned enterprise run by former military men, is responsible for gemstone production through its control of permits, licensing, collection of royalties, and joint venture partnerships.

Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan of Transparency International told the Financial Times in February, 2017, that the military’s modus operandi has always been to “insert themselves in various parts of the economy and use this to enrich their shareholders,” the Burmese army.

The military projects MEC and MEHL as potential partners for foreign multinationals seeking to invest in Burma. Hla Myo, a former army major and a general manager at MEHL, told the Financial Times that the company is “very passionate” about adding U.S. and European companies to MEHL’s roster of joint ventures with Asian corporate partners.

The Financial Times reported that MEHL’s top ten directors all hold military ranks. The board is overseen by seven of the Burma’s top military officers, headed by the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing.

Burma’s Mogok Valley is renowned for producing some of the highest quality rubies and sapphires, with the country supplying the majority of the world’s rubies and jadeite. According to Global Witness, MEHL’s has a prominent position in the jade trade, worth as much as $31 billion to Burma in 2014. At the 2014 Myanmar gems emporium, the official government auction, MEHL’s Myanmar Imperial Jade subsidiary recorded record sales figures of almost $150 million.

Ending the “Genocide Gems” Trade

The United States enacted a ban of imports of gems mined in Myanmar in 2003. However, few high-end jewelry retailers opted to boycott Burmese gems at that point in time. Instead, the companies chose to take advantage of a loophole in the legislation that allowed for the importation of Burmese gems that were cut and polished in another country.

Tiffany & Co. announced in 2003 that it would no longer purchase Burmese gems regardless of where the stones were cut or polished, thereby refusing to profit off of human rights abuses. By contrast, its competitors, such as Cartier, continued to buy Burmese gems until international outrage pressured it to adopt similar policies in 2007.

When the US lifted sanctions on Burmese gems in 2016, Tiffany & Co. maintained its commitment to responsible gemstone sourcing. Cartier, like many other high-end jewelry retailers, quietly ended their boycott of Burmese gems when the opportunity to maximize profits presented itself once again.

The Rise of “Citizens Sanctions” on Burma’s Military

Governments are considering sanctions against Burma army in the wake of its most recent campaign of violence against the Rohinyga. Americans can urge their Members of the  U.S. Congress to support and co-sponsor House (H.R. 4223)  and Senate (S.2023), bills that would reinstate the ban of imports into the U.S. of Burmese gems.

But we don’t have to depend on lobbying our Members of Congress. We can put direct consumer pressure on the jewelry retailers that are fueling the military’s atrocities against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Burma, including the Karen, Shan, and Kachin.

Cartier’s decision to stop buying Burmese gems demonstrates how ordinary people can directly sanction Burma’s army. Let’s make it crystal clear to the jewelry industry that there’s no market for genocide gems.

Press Release: International Campaign for the Rohingya (Malaysia) petitions Petronas to withdraw from Myanmar

PRESS RELEASE

November 7, 2017

International Campaign for the Rohingya (Malaysia) petitions Petronas to withdraw from Myanmar
Petronas urged to withdraw to protest Myanmar’s repression and violence against the Rohingya

Kuala Lumpur: The International Campaign for the Rohingya (ICR) has sent a petition to PETRONAS, calling for the company to stop operations or investments in Myanmar by January 1, 2018, in protest against the Myanmar’s government’s repression and violence against ethnic Rohingya.

International Campaign for the Rohingya (Malaysia) President, Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi, who is also the Ambassador to Malaysia for The European Rohingya Council, stated that: “The withdrawal of Petronas from Myanmar would send a strong political and economic signal to the government of Myanmar that it must end its repression and violence against the Rohingya.”

Since late August, Burmese security forces have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing and committed numerous crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population, a long-persecuted ethnic and religious minority group predominantly in Rakhine State. In response to these abuses, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh over the past two months.

Satellite images commissioned by independent organizations show hundreds of burned villages – and tens of thousands of torched buildings. Refugees have provided first-hand accounts of unfathomable brutality: soldiers burning infants alive, gang-raping women, shooting villagers fleeing their homes – violations that research by nongovernmental organizations has found to be widespread and systematic.

United Nations investigators who have conducted interviews of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have noted “a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has called the scale and nature of the atrocities in Rakhine a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Despite international condemnation, Burmese authorities continue to restrict access to the region for most international humanitarian organizations, a UN fact-finding mission, and independent media. The commander-in-chief of the Burmese military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other Burmese officials, refuse to acknowledge the atrocities their forces have committed.

“As Malaysia’s largest corporation, PETRONAS needs to demonstrate that Malaysian companies operate responsibly around the world and avoid doing business with governments that are complicit in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity,” stated Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi. “PETRONAS must respect the views and values of its customers, employees, and shareholders, who do not want PETRONAS to become complicit in genocide against the Rohingya’s.”

Tengku Emma Zuriana said the petition will be sent to the company next week and will be brought to parliament for debate. She said that she hoped the petition would attract the support of members of the parliament. “Since PETRONAS is owned by the Malaysian government, the company’s policies and practices reflect on the reputation of Malaysia and its people,” stated Tengku Emma Zuriana.

In October, a group of investors, with over US $53 billion of assets under management, wrote PETRONAS concerned about the company’s reputation in light of its operations in Myanmar (Burma) and the recent attacks on Rohingya communities by the Burmese army.

Organized by the International Campaign for the Rohingya and Azzad Asset Management, letters signed by 31 investor organizations representing more than $53 billion in assets under management were sent to executives at six oil and gas companies, emphasizing the serious risks of doing business with the Myanmar regime. Commodities make up a majority of Myanmar’s exports and are often controlled in whole or part by the armed forces.

Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya, said: “Corporations that do business in Burma are supporting a government engaged in ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide against the Rohingya. The oil companies in Myanmar must take affirmative steps to avoid complicity in these crimes against humanity.”

– END –

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE ROHINGYA
The International Campaign for the Rohingya advocates and amplifies the voice of the Rohingya with international organizations, governments, corporations, and civil society. Its mission is to help the Rohingya secure peace, security, and their rights wherever they reside.

Contacts:

Tengku Emma Zuriana
President, International Campaign for the Rohingya (Malaysia)
+60 12 413 1809 (Malaysia)
pray4rohingya@gmail.com

Simon Billenness
Executive Director, International Campaign for the Rohingya
+1-617-596-6158 (United States)
simon.billenness@rohingyacampaign.org

Letter from 58 NGOs Calling for Targeted Economic Sanctions in Burma

November 2, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Re: Burma and Targeted Sanctions

Dear Secretaries Tillerson and Mnuchin,

The US government urgently needs to act to help address the grave human rights and humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the Burmese military’s brutal response to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)’s August 25 attack on government posts in Burma’s Rakhine State.

As you know, since late August, Burmese security forces have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing and committed numerous crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population, a long-persecuted ethnic and religious minority group predominantly in Rakhine State. In response to these abuses, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh over the past two months.

Satellite images commissioned by independent organizations show hundreds of burned villages – and tens of thousands of torched buildings. Refugees have provided first-hand accounts of unfathomable brutality: soldiers burning infants alive, gang-raping women, shooting villagers fleeing their homes – violations that research by nongovernmental organizations has found to be widespread and systematic.

United Nations investigators who have conducted interviews of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have noted “a consistent, methodical pattern of actions resulting in gross human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, has called the scale and nature of the atrocities in Rakhine a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Despite international condemnation, Burmese authorities continue to restrict access to the region for most international humanitarian organizations, a UN fact-finding mission, and independent media. The commander-in-chief of the Burmese military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other Burmese officials, refuse to acknowledge the atrocities their forces have committed.

We commend the U.S. government for the nearly $104 million in humanitarian assistance it has provided in fiscal year 2017, nearly $40 million of which was provided in direct response to the Rakhine State crisis, to displaced populations in Burma and refugees in neighboring countries. We also strongly support the State Department’s statement that “individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable.”

It is critical that the U.S. government respond to the severity and scope of the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing campaign with effective action. To this end, we urge the administration to immediately and robustly impose targeted economic sanctions authorized under the 2008 JADE Act and the 2016 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

Under the JADE Act, the president is empowered to issue travel restrictions and financial sanctions against Burmese military officials and their immediate family members if they are “involved in…gross violations of human rights in Burma or in the commission of other human rights abuses.” Steps taken by the previous administration to lift sanctions did not unravel existing authorities but only waived them, and, according to recent State Department releases, some JADE Act authorities are currently in use, such as the ban on current and former Burmese military officials traveling to the United States. The administration should move to robustly and vigorously employ the remaining authorities.

In addition to the JADE Act, the administration should exercise its authority granted under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows for the levying of travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals responsible for acts of significant corruption and gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals who seek “to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms, such as the freedom of religion.” Given that the Burmese military’s actions against the Rohingya people are motivated at least in part on religious grounds, the Global Magnitsky Act is applicable.

Given the systemic nature of the crimes being perpetrated against the Rohingya people, it is important that sanctions designations levied under either the JADE Act or Global Magnitsky Act target appropriately senior officials who likely ordered criminal acts or appear to have been criminally responsible as a matter of command responsibility. Command responsibility would encompass those senior-most members of the Burmese security forces who knew or had reason to know that their subordinates were committing extrajudicial killings, rape, arson and other abuses, and failed to take all necessary and reasonable steps to prevent such abuses or punish those responsible.

As you recently said, Secretary Tillerson, “the world cannot just sit idly by and be witness to these atrocities.” The JADE Act and Global Magnitsky Act provide the executive branch with tools for action. The United States should employ them to the fullest to prevent dire consequences for Burma’s future and send an unmistakable signal to the rest of the world.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Human Rights Watch
Human Rights First
AFL-CIO
ALTSEAN-Burma
Ameinu (Our People)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish World Service
Anti-Defamation League
Association Suisse Birmanie
Boat People SOS
Buddhist Global Relief
Burma Action Ireland
Burma Campaign UK
Burma Human Rights Network
Burma Task Force
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
Center for Justice & Accountability
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Congregation Tehillah
CREDO
Emgage Action
Estonian American National Council
Equal Rights Trust
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR-USA)
Freedom House
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Fortify Rights
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Progressive Hub
Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College
Info Birmanie
Institute for Asian Democracy
Interfaith Center of New York
International Campaign for the Rohingya
International State Crime Initiative
Investors Against Genocide
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
JACOB: The Jewish Alliance of Concern Over Burma
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Joint Baltic American National Committee
Jubilee Campaign USA Inc
Just Foreign Policy
Magnitsky Act Initiative
Muslim Bar Association of New York
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Partners Relief & Development
Physicians for Human Rights
Refugees International
Society for Threatened Peoples – Germany
STAND: The Student-Led Movement to End Mass Atrocities
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders
The Network of Spiritual Progressives
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Viet Tan
Win Without War

Stakeholders press energy companies doing business with Myanmar to address Rohingya crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Stakeholders press energy companies doing business with Myanmar to address Rohingya crisis
Investors with more than $53 billion in assets sign letters calling for an end to ‘business as usual’ in light of military crackdown
 
Falls Church, Va., 10/23/17 — A group of investors and stakeholders has called on energy companies doing business in Myanmar/Burma to reassess their dealings in light of that country’s brutal military crackdown on its ethnic Rohingya minority.
 
Organized by the International Campaign for the Rohingya and Azzad Asset Management, letters signed by 31 investor organizations representing more than $53 billion in assets under management were sent to executives at six oil and gas companies, emphasizing the serious risks of doing business with the Myanmar regime. Commodities make up a majority of Myanmar’s exports and are often controlled in whole or part by the armed forces.
 
Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya said, “Corporations that do business in Burma are supporting a government engaged in ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide against the Rohingya. The oil companies in Burma must take affirmative steps to avoid complicity in these crimes against humanity.” 
 
In addition to citing the moral obligation to address the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, the letters express concern about the potential risks to investments in the country as well as harm to corporate reputations stemming from doing business with a regime engaged in what the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has characterized as “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”
 
The letter to oil companies states in part:
 
“We believe that [your] operations and investment in Myanmar and relationships with both the government and the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise creates a special obligation for [your company] to both express its concern over recent events and to reassess its relationship with the government in light of the Burmese government’s recent military actions against Rohingya communities. We cannot maintain ‘business as usual’ in a country where allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide persist.” 
 
Companies receiving the letter were China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Daewoo, PetroChina, Petronas, Total, and Woodside Petroleum.
 
In August, an investor coalition representing more than $30 billion in assets sent a similar letter to Chevron Corp., which also operates in Burma.
 
For decades, the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar have been subject to a government-sanctioned campaign of forced relocation, violence, and persecution. In 2012, Burmese military forces moved more than 120,000 Rohingya from their homes into detention camps. Human rights observers report that the Myanmar military has carried out campaigns of mass rape and killing of Rohingya civilians, including children.
 
The recent Burmese army crackdown on the Rohingya has caused an estimated 500,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, triggering a humanitarian and refugee crisis.
 
About International Campaign for the Rohingya
The International Campaign for the Rohingya advocates and amplifies the voice of the Rohingya with international organizations, governments, corporations, and civil society. Its mission is to help the Rohingya secure peace, security, and their rights wherever they reside. Through the “No Business With Genocide” campaign, the International Campaign for the Rohingya puts pressure on corporations in Burma to be a force for preventing genocide and mass atrocities against the Rohingya.
About Azzad Asset Management
Azzad Asset Management is a socially responsible registered investment advisor committed to providing investment services designed to help people enjoy optimum performance without compromising their values. Azzad believes that companies operating in ethical lines of business offer relatively less business risk and are in a better position to thrive in the long term. Azzad is a member of the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. The firm is based in Falls Church, Virginia.
 
END
 
International Campaign for the Rohingya: Simon Billenness, Executive Director, 617-596-6158 (cell),simon.billenness@rohingyacampaign.org
Azzad Asset Management: Investment Communications Director Joshua Brockwell, 703-207-7005, ext. 109 (office), 571-970-8695 (cell), joshua@azzadfunds.com; Amina Rubin, 703-207-7005, ext. 120, amina@azzadfunds.com

 

Extraordinary Session on the Situation of the Rohingya

On January 19, Malaysia hosted the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Kuala Lumpur for an Extraordinary Session on the situation of the Rohingya. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak urged the government of Myanmar to end the humanitarian tragedy and subsequently pledged US$2.2 million to aid the minority group. In a final communiqué, the OIC called upon Myanmar to resolve the root of the crisis in Rakhine State, among other calls to action, and reinstate the citizenship of the Rohingya. The request was also made for the government to allow a high-level delegation from the OIC to travel to Rakhine State in order to conduct an independent inquiry. Such access is unlikely to be granted as travel into the state is still severely restricted.

The meeting was immediately denounced in a press release issued by Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The session was deemed “regrettable” and only served to make “a complicated issue worse.” Vocal in its growing discontent of fellow ASEAN member interfering in domestic affairs, the government described Malaysia’s actions as exploitative and promotive of certain political agendas—entirely disregarding the reality that the Rohingya crisis is also an international issue as refugees are fleeing to seek sanctuary throughout parts of Southeast Asia.

In its defense against accusations that it is not taking appropriate measures in resolving the conflict, the Myanmar government cited the creation of two commissions that are helping to find a solution—a claim that is deceptive and contentious. The two commissions established to investigate the abuses occurring in Rakhine State are one thirteen-member group headed by Myanmar Vice President U Myint Swe, and one nine-member Rakhine Advisory Commission headed by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Despite examining allegations of human rights abuses in the same region, the initial findings of both groups have been polarizing and incongruous.

The interim report released by Vice President Swe’s commission found “insufficient evidence” of rape and violence perpetrated by Myanmar security forces. Allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity were also denied. The report is in stark contrast with Annan’s preliminary statement in November 2016 after visiting Rakhine State. Annan stated:

“As Chair of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, I wish to express my deep concern over the recent violence in northern Rakhine State, which is plunging the State into renewed instability and creating new displacement. All communities must renounce violence and I urge the security services to act in full compliance with the rule of law.”

Annan’s commission has yet to release a full report on its findings, but will do so within 12 mend onths of the commission’s creation—presumably before August 2017.

The decision of the Myanmar government to criticize a meeting held only to alleviate the suffering of a persecuted group is both disappointing and evident of its unwillingness to admit atrocities against the Rohingya are occurring. If the Myanmar government was truly dedicated to ending the crisis in Rakhine State, this Extraordinary Session would have been welcomed and revered, not disparaged. The reduction of conflict and violence can only happen through cooperation, not condemnation.