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UN court rules Myanmar genocide case can go ahead

The World Court on Friday rejected Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case over its treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority, paving the way for the case to be heard in full.

Myanmar, now ruled by a military junta that seized power in 2021, had argued that Gambia, which brought the suit, had no standing to do so at the top U.N. court, formally 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 must act to prevent genocide, and the court had jurisdiction in the case, Reuters reports.

“Gambia, as a state party to the genocide convention, has standing,” she said, reading a summary of the 13-judge panel’s ruling.

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

Gambia took up the Rohingya’s cause in 2019, backed by the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, in a suit aiming to hold Myanmar accountable and prevent further bloodshed.

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

Gambia became involved after his predecessor, Abubacarr Tambadou, a former prosecutor at the U.N. Rwanda tribunal, visited a refugee camp in Bangladesh and said that the stories he heard evoked memories of the genocide in Rwanda.

A representative for Myanmar said that the state would do its “utmost” to protect the country’s “national interest” in further proceedings.