Ansar Ahmed Ullah:
Gambia lodged a case against Myanmar at the ICJ, the UN judicial body based in The Hague, alleging genocide in Myanmar’s treatment of ethnic Rohingyas and the continued threat of genocide. The charges stem from atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State, which have forced over 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017. Gambia’s delegation detailed report from the UN Fact Finding Mission of genocidal rape, killings and mass destruction. Gambia, relying on the provision that the ICJ can adjudicate disputes over such charges, brought this case on behalf of the fifty seven member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The allegations against Myanmar include responsibility for genocidal acts against the Rohingya and failure to prevent and punish genocide, among others. The Netherlands and Canada have indicated that they will support Gambia’s case. They have called on all state parties to the Genocide Convention to do the same.
Hearings at the court will last three days ending on 12 December. Tomorrow, 11 December, Aung San Suu Kyi will represent Myanmar to present its defence.
International Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey said Aung San Suu Kyi’s public statements and what she is known to have said in private, suggest that she believes no genocide has occurred in the Rohingya case. She thinks that, on the contrary, the outside world has deeply misunderstood and exaggerated the Rohingya crisis. He said, ‘In defending Myanmar as part of proceedings live-streamed worldwide, she will necessarily be defending the military against genocide charges.’
He added one can easily compare the substance of this defence with the numerous third-party reports about why so many Rohingya fled northern Myanmar to take refuge in Bangladesh and read about the Rohingyas who continue to live in precarious circumstances at home.
A decision on provisional measures is expected within weeks. But the case itself will probably be long and convoluted, with the court taking years to render its final decision. Human rights groups and Rohingya organisations, including British Rohingya Group and UK based charity Restless Beings are holding vigil and protest outside the court.