Weekly Letter to the President
Copyright © 2017
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
September 28, 2018
Mr. President: Very quietly, without fanfare, in a story that went by almost unnoticed,
the U.S. State Department website posted a report this week on the Rohingya
massacres and atrocities. Based on a survey, for which it contracted a
Washington-based law firm (PLPG -- Public International Law and Policy Group) to
conduct the interviews, the report relied on 15,000 pages of supporting evidence. It
documented a planned, organized effort to terrorize and drive out the Rohingya
community. The firm, too, has posted data and legal findings on its own website.
PILPG's investigators conducted 1024 interviews with Rohingya survivors in Eastern
Bangladesh refugee camps and settlement areas. They drafted an initial overview for
the State Department followed by detailed documentation in the form of a database
with more than "13,000 coded instances of grave human rights violations." A second
report titled, "Factual Findings and Legal Analysis Report" is expected to be issued
sometime next month (October 2018).
The State Department report notes specifically that any hearsay evidence was not
recorded; the interviewees were eyewitnesses to the horrors. Eighty-two percent
actually saw the killings and a similar number observed the destruction and burning of
huts and villages. There are numerous aerial views of the destruction, patches of
lifeless brown in a lush, green landscape. Fifty-one percent witnessed sexual
violence of which 45 percent constituted rapes -- 18 percent were gang rapes.
The military were by far the worst perpetrators. Others involved were police or armed
civilians. The methods employed in some cases were designed to cause "mass
casualties ... locking people in houses to burn them, fencing off entire villages before
shooting into the crowd, or sinking boats full of hundreds of fleeing Rohingya" (p. 2).
Gang rapes were common. In one case, they abducted some 80 women to rape. In
another, a mother reported that "during a rape of roughly 100 women, her daughter
was raped, then mutilated and killed ... ." Other mutilations included "cutting babies
out of their pregnant mothers' bellies ... ." Soldiers are reported to have "cut off the
breasts of women they raped ... mutilated genitals or other parts of their bodies" (p.
Systematic, organized atrocities perpetrated by a de facto authority are considered
crimes against humanity. These include massacres, summary executions, rapes,
religious persecution and the terrorism experienced by the Rohingya. Article 7 of the
Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court is reproduced under the
UN's definition of crimes against humanity. Any one of the ten actions described are
sufficient for guilt and in Myanmar the authorities perpetrated at least eight.
The State Department report carefully avoids calling the acts, 'crimes against
humanity,' a term that could have legal implications and obligate it to "stronger
punitive measures." However, the UN Human Rights Council continues to forge
ahead and on September 27 it set up an agency to collect and consolidate evidence
to facilitate any future prosecutions by the ICC.
The UN's 440-page report released the previous week on September 18, documented
in detail the horrific damning evidence and called for the Myanmar military and six
senior generals including the commander-in-chief to be referred to the ICC. The
latter has commenced its own preliminary investigation. Let's hope the mercurial Mr.
Trump wakes up peevish on the wrong side of the bed one morning soon. Even that
might not be enough for the generals to face justice as ICC investigations require
cooperation by the Myanmar government.