U.S. Releases Report Naming China, Six Other Countries for Genocide and Atrocities

The United States named six countries – Burma, China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan – for ongoing genocide and atrocities. This is part of a report highlighting how the U.S. government is using financial, diplomatic and other means to try to stop these atrocities.

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken released an annual report on preventing genocide and atrocities on Monday (July 12).

“This year, for the first time, the report directly details atrocities that have occurred in specific countries such as Burma, Ethiopia, China and Syria. These places represent the most serious foreign policy challenges on our agenda,” Blinken said.

“We will use all the tools at our disposal, including diplomacy, foreign assistance, fact-finding maps, financial tools and engagement, as well as reports like this one. This report raises awareness and allows us to bring about a concerted international pressure and response,” Blinken added.

In January, Blinken confirmed that China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The U.S. State Department continues to restrict visas for those Chinese officials believed to be responsible for the detention or mistreatment of Muslim minorities.

The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada imposed sanctions on two Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses. Dozens of Chinese companies have also been listed as U.S. entities for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Some experts say preventing genocide is not only a moral imperative but also an obligation under international law, but also point to some limitations.

“Genocide is a crime that is universally governed by U.S. federal courts,” Gregory Stanton, founding president of Genocide Watch, told Voice of America. “Wherever genocide is committed, the perpetrators can be tried in U.S. federal courts.”

But the perpetrators “must be in the United States, because American courts don’t try anyone in absentia,” Stanton added.

Tom Dannenbaum, assistant professor of international law at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, told VOA that “the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which the United States ratified in 1988, requires countries to prevent and punish acts of genocide.”

Dannenbaum said:Â “But the responsibility to prevent does not include the authority to use force abroad for that purpose.”

Danenbaum said that although China is a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, along with the United States and 150 other countries, the Beijing government has entered a reservation to a provision of the convention that prevents the feasibility of opening a legal case against China in the International Court of Justice.

On Burma, the United States sanctioned Burma’s military leadership and suspended military engagement with it following its February 2021 coup d’état. The coup leaders included many of those who committed atrocities against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, which the U.S. determined was an act of ethnic cleansing.

The U.S. also extended the temporary protected status of Burmese in the U.S. for 18 months following the military coup in Myanmar, while calling on the regime to return power to a democratically elected government and to stop killing and attacking protesters.

In March, Blinken described the atrocities taking place in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as ethnic cleansing. The U.S. has restricted certain non-humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and imposed new defense trade controls on the country.

“Both assessments are ongoing. We are putting together factual and legal assessments, and both are being considered very positively,” the top U.S. diplomat said Monday when asked whether the U.S. government had decided to call the atrocities committed against the Rohingya in Tigray and Burma crimes against humanity or genocide.

But Genocide Watch’s Stanton criticized the U.S. State Department, saying its lawyers blocked a finding that genocide was committed in many other countries.

“For three months during the Rwandan genocide, they refused to call it genocide. They are still blocking recognition that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya. They are blocking recognition that Nigeria is committing genocide against Christians,” Stanton told the Voice of America in an email Monday.

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 was signed into U.S. law on Jan. 14, 2019. The act requires an updated report on U.S. government efforts to prevent and respond to atrocities based on a global assessment of ongoing atrocities and countries at risk of atrocities.