The United States on Monday formally declared that Myanmar’s army had committed genocide against the Rohingya community, BBC reported.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, said that the attacks against Rohingya Muslims were “widespread and systematic”.

“Beyond the Holocaust, the United States has concluded that genocide was committed seven times,” Blinken said, Al Jazeera reported. “Today marks the eighth, because I’ve determined that members of the Burmese military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya.”

More than seven lakh Rohingya Muslims had fled to neighbouring Bangladesh after the Myanmar Army launched a military operation in Rakhine state in August 2017. More than 6,000 people were killed in just the first month of the crackdown, the BBC reported.

Myanmar considers Rohingya Muslims illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not acknowledge their rights as an official ethnic group.

Nearly 14 months ago, when Blinken took charge of his office, he pledged to conduct a review of the violence in the region, Al Jazeera reported.

On being asked about this review, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, during a press briefing on Monday, said that Blinken’s announcement of declaring the repression as genocide emphasises, especially to victims and survivors, that the US recognised the “gravity of the crimes”.

“Our view is that shining a light on the crimes of Burmese military will increase international pressure, make it harder for them to commit further abuses,” Psaki said. “Rohingya have long faced discrimination and been subject to exclusionary policies. And this has been a lengthy review process at the State Department to come to this conclusion.”

Blinken has also announced nearly $1 million for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to investigate, collect, preserve and analyse evidence of “the most serious international crimes in Burma since 2011”, Psaki said.

The Mechanism, adopted in September 2018, aims to analyse evidence of the atrocities in the region and facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings.

“The day will come when those responsible for these appalling acts will have to answer for them,” Blinken was quoted as saying, the BBC reported.

Before Biden took office 14 months ago, two US investigations had failed to reach a conclusion.

Happy about the declaration: Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh welcomed the US’ announcement declaring the repression of their community a genocide, Associated Press reported.

“We are happy on the declaration of the genocide,” 60-year-old Sala Uddin, who lives at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar district, said. “Many many thanks.”

Bazar district in the Chittagong division is home to 1 million Rohingya Muslims after they fled Myanmar.

“It has been 60 years starting from 1962 that the Myanmar government has been torturing us and many other communities including Rohingya,” Uddin said, Associated Press reported.

Uddin hoped that the US declaration will open a path to take action by the international community against Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Imtiaz Ahmed, director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, said the declaration was a positive step. However, Ahmed hoped that concrete steps follow after this.

“Just by saying that genocide had been committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya is not good enough,” Ahmed was quoted as saying, AP reported. “I think we need to see what would follow from that statement.”