By Mike Corder | concerned body
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Judges at the United Nations’ top court on Friday rejected preliminary objections to Myanmar’s lawsuit accusing the Southeast Asian country of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority.
The International Court of Justice’s decision to establish jurisdiction has set the stage for hearing evidence of atrocities against the Rohingya that human rights groups and a United Nations investigation say violate the 1948 Genocide Convention. In March, US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken said the violent crackdown on the Rohingya population in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, amounted to genocide.
Tun Khan, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, welcomed the ruling, saying 600,000 Rohingya “still face genocide,” while “one million people await hope of justice in camps in Bangladesh.”
The African nation of Gambia filed the lawsuit in 2019 amid international outrage over the treatment of the Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom fled to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 during a brutal crackdown by Myanmar forces. 1948 Convention and that all signatories have a duty to ensure its implementation.
The court judges agreed.
In reading a summary of the judgment, the president of the court, US Judge Joanne E. Donoghue, said: “Any state party to the Genocide Convention may accept the responsibility of another state party by the institution of proceedings before the court.”
A small group of pro-Rohingya protesters gathered outside the court’s headquarters, the Peace Palace, ahead of the verdict, holding a banner reading: “Speed up justice for the Rohingya.” Genocide survivors cannot wait for generations to come.
A protester stamps a large portrait of Myanmar’s military government leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
The court rejected arguments raised by lawyers representing Myanmar at hearings in February that the case should be adjourned because the International Court of Justice only adjudicates disputes between states and the Rohingya’s complaint that Gambia treated Islamic The cooperation was brought by the organization.
The judges also rejected Myanmar’s claim that Gambia could not file the case because it was not directly related to the events in Myanmar and there was no legal dispute between the two countries before the case was filed.
Myanmar’s representative, the military government’s minister of international cooperation, Ko Ko Hlaeng, said his nation would “do its best to defend our country and protect our national interests.”
Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dauda Jalo, said: “We are very happy that justice has been served.”
The Netherlands and Canada have supported The Gambia, saying in 2020 the country “has taken a commendable step towards ending impunity for perpetrators of atrocities in Myanmar and upholding this commitment. Canada and the Netherlands support these efforts.” They consider it their responsibility to support those who are of concern to the entire humanity.
However, the court ruled on Friday that it “would not be appropriate” to send copies of the documents and legal arguments filed in the case to the two countries.
Myanmar’s army launched a clearance operation in Rakhine state in 2017 after an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s security forces are accused of mass rape, killing and burning thousands of Rohingya homes.
In 2019, lawyers representing The Gambia at the ICJ outlined their allegations of genocide by showing judges maps, satellite images and graphic images of the military campaign. Because of this, the court ordered Myanmar to take all possible measures to stop the genocide against the Rohingya. The interim ruling was intended to protect the minority while the case is decided in The Hague, a process likely to take years.
The International Court of Justice adjudicates disputes between states. It is not affiliated with the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals accountable for atrocities. ICC prosecutors are investigating crimes against Rohingya who were forced to flee to Bangladesh.