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April 2017: USCIRF Recommendations For Burma

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has made a number of recommendations regarding Burma for the US government. The Burma Task Force (USA) is involved in presenting and engaging the USCIRF regarding these critical issues as it relates to Burma.

• Continue to designate Burma as a CPC under IRFA;

• Enter into a binding agreement with the government of Burma, as authorized under section 405(c) of IRFA, setting forth mutually agreed commitments that would foster critical reforms to improve religious freedom and establish a pathway that could lead to Burma’s eventual removal from the CPC list, including but not limited to the following:

• Taking concrete steps to end violence and policies of discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, including the investigation and prosecution of those perpetrating or inciting violence; and

• Lifting all restrictions inconsistent with international standards on freedom of religion or belief;

• Continue to encourage Burma’s government to allow humanitarian aid and workers, international human rights monitors, and independent media consistent and unimpeded access to conflict areas, including in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states and other locations where displaced persons and affected civilian populations reside, and direct U.S. assistance to these efforts, as appropriate; • Support efforts by the international community, including at the United Nations, to establish a commission of inquiry or similar independent mechanism to investigate the root causes and allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states and other conflict areas, and to hold accountable those responsible— including members of the military and law enforcement—for perpetrating or inciting violence against civilians, particularly religious and ethnic minorities;

• Encourage Burma’s government to become party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

• Engage the government of Burma, the Buddhist community (especially its leaders), religious and ethnic minorities (including Rohingya Muslims and Christian communities), and other actors who support religious freedom, tolerance, inclusivity, and reconciliation, to assist them in promoting understanding among people of different religious faiths and to impress upon them the importance of pursuing improvements in religious tolerance and religious freedom in tandem with political improvements;

• Use the term “Rohingya” both publicly and privately, which respects the right of Rohingya Muslims to identify as they choose;

• Encourage crucial legal and legislative reform that strengthens protections for religious and ethnic minorities, including citizenship for the Rohingya population through the review, amendment, or repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law or some other means, and support the proper training of local government officials, lawyers, judges, police, and security forces tasked with implementing, enforcing, and interpreting the rule of law;

• Press for at the highest levels and work to secure the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience and persons detained or awaiting trial, and press Burma’s government to treat prisoners humanely and allow them access to family, human rights monitors, adequate medical care, and lawyers and the ability to practice their faith; and

• Use targeted tools against specific officials, agencies, and military units identified as having participated in or being responsible for human rights abuses, including particularly severe violations of religious freedom, such as adding further names to the “specially designated nationals” list maintained by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, visa denials under section 604(a) of IRFA and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and asset freezes under the Global Magnitsky Act.

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