TASSC Survivors Visit House Speaker Paul Ryan's Office in US Capitol

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TASSC is working  hard to make sure the U.S. House of Representatives schedules a vote on House Resolution 128 on human rights abuses in Ethiopia.  Three survivors— Fekade Ancho, Assefa Kitilla and Etsegenet Kedir—had a meeting inside the U.S. Capitol Building with an aide to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Ryan is one of the most powerful Members of Congress— he would become president if something should happen to the president and the vice-president.

House Res 128. was introduced by Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey and has 73 cosponsors. It unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 27 and was scheduled for a vote on October 2. As Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) explains, a decision was made not to proceed with the vote after the Ethiopian Embassy threatened the United States, saying Ethiopia would stop cooperating with the U.S. on counter-terrorism if there was a vote. 

Andrea said that Ethiopia is “requesting permission” from the United States to continue killing, torturing and raping its own people—that is why it objects to the Resolution. The House should not surrender to the bullying tactics of the Ethiopian government by refusing to hold a vote. Moreover, it is in Ethiopia’s interest to prevent al-Shabab from destabilizing the country. Finally, the U.S provides Ethiopia with hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance. So what right does the Ethiopian government have to give orders to the U.S. House of Representatives?

Congressman Ryan’s aide was very impressed with the testimonies of Fekade, Assefa and Etsegenet, who “put a human face” on the brutality of the Ethiopian government. TASSC will continue working with survivors and with our partners-=- Amnesty International, the Amhara Association of America and the Oromo Advocacy Alliance—until this Resolution passes the House of Representatives.

TASSC Denounces Atrocities against Rohingya as Crimes Against Humanity

The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) joins the almost 90 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which have condemned the brutal military crackdown being carried out by Myanmar against its Rohingya minority as ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim ethnic group who have lived in Myanmar, or Burma, for generations but were never accepted by the majority Buddhist country. Burma refused to allow Rohingyas to become citizens and have denied them equal access to health care, education and employment because of their religion, branding them “illegal aliens” from Bangladesh. Burma has expelled the Rohingya in the past—over 120,000 were forced out of the country in 2012—but since August hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have had to flee Bangladesh to save their lives.

Burmese soldiers have destroyed over 200 Rohingya villages, slaughtered husbands in front of their wives, cut women’s throats with knives and smashed the heads of babies in front of their mothers. UN medics working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have reported cases not only of rape and sexual assault but mutilation of women’s genitals by Burmese security forces. The Burmese military is carrying out psychological and physical torture without fear of consequences. The Burmese government has refused to condemn and to call for stopping the atrocities, and to prosecute those who are behind the killings and torture.

At a September 27th hearing before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, a witness from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide testified about “mounting evidence that genocide is happening in Burma.”

As an organization committed to the elimination of torture throughout the world, TASSC is appalled by the human tragedy unfolding in Myanmar and at the failure of the international community to pressure Myanmar to stop its crimes against humanity including forcible population transfers, murder, and rape and sexual violence. Many TASSC survivors can identify with the plight of the Rohingya because they themselves were also civilians persecuted by their own governments.

TASSC adds its name to the appeal of 88 NGOs including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the National Religious Campaign against Torture, Refugees International, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Burma Task Force which is “calling on all states to immediately suspend military assistance and cooperation with Myanmar.” TASSC joins these organizations in pressing Burma to immediately end its campaign of ethnic cleansing, allow humanitarian organizations access to the Rohingya population in Burma, and permit refugees in Bangladesh to return to their homes inside Burma. TASSC also calls on the Burmese government to develop and implement a plan that re-educates its people to accept the Rohingya minority as full citizens of the country entitled to all the benefits of every other citizen of the country.

TASSC Executive Director Leonce Byimana, originally from Rwanda, said that the failure of the international community to intervene quickly allowed genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He said this “mistake should not happen again.” 

The Underground Silent Torture

Human suffering is an intricate form of silent torture. There is no civil war in Eritrea, a small country located in Northeast Africa. And there is no severe hunger or drought either. But Eritrea contributes the most refugees per capita in the world. It is a nation of only five million people. But every month thousands of youth risk their lives by crossing the deadly border into Sudan until they reach Libya, then try to escape to Italy by boat. This is why the international community is confused about the inhumanity in Eritrea; the Underground Silent Torture.

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