International Court of Justice rejects Myanmar’s objections to Rohingya genocide case

Taiy Khali refugee camp, Bangladesh, September 20, 2017.Dar Yasin/Associated Press

The World Court on Friday dismissed Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, clearing the way for the case to be heard fully.

Myanmar, now ruled by a military junta that took power in 2021, had argued that The Gambia, which had brought the lawsuit, lacked standing to do so before the UN’s highest court, officially known as the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

But presiding judge Joan Donoghue said all states that had signed the 1948 genocide convention could and should act to prevent genocide, and that the court had jurisdiction over the case.

“The Gambia, as a state party to the Genocide Convention, has standing,” she said as she read a summary of the 13-judge panel’s decision.

The court will now proceed to hear the merits of the case, a process that will take years.

The Gambia took up the cause of the Rohingya in 2019, backed by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in a lawsuit aimed at holding Myanmar accountable and preventing further bloodshed.

Gambia’s Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said outside the courtroom he was “very happy” with the decision and was confident the prosecution would prevail.

The Gambia got involved after his predecessor, Abubacarr Tambadou, a former UN tribunal prosecutor for Rwanda, visited a refugee camp in Bangladesh and said the stories he heard evoked memories of the genocide in Rwanda.

A Myanmar official said the state would do “everything possible” to protect the country’s “national interest” in subsequent proceedings.

Protesters outside the court gates raised a red banner with the text “Free Burma” and shouted at cars carrying junta officials leaving the building after the ruling.

A UN fact-finding mission concluded that a Myanmar-led military campaign in 2017, which drove 730,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh, included “acts of genocide”.

Myanmar has denied the genocide, dismissing the UN findings as “biased and wrong”. He says his crackdown was aimed at Rohingya rebels who had carried out attacks.

While the decisions of the court in The Hague are binding and countries generally follow them, it has no means of enforcing them.

In a 2020 interim ruling, he ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya from harm, a legal victory that established their right under international law as a protected minority.

However, Rohingya groups and rights activists say there have been no meaningful attempts to end their systemic persecution.

Rohingyas are still denied citizenship and freedom of movement in Myanmar. Tens of thousands of people have now been confined to squalid displacement camps for a decade.

Bangladesh’s foreign ministry welcomed the judgment in a statement.

“For the victims living in the camps in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar, they see hope that justice will be done for them and that the perpetrators of the Burmese army will be brought to justice,” said Ambia Parveen of the European Rohingya Council. . out of court.

The junta jailed Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who personally defended Myanmar during the 2019 hearings in The Hague.

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