Experts from home and abroad on Wednesday censured the intent of Myanmar, as a country, to deny at the International Court of Justice the allegations of genocide committed against ethnic and religious minority Rohingya group in Rakhine state.
The Myanmar side was ‘in effort to undercut allegation of genocide and genocidal intent,’ Parampreet Singh, associate director of Human Rights Watch said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a pool of lawyers denied ‘genocidal intent’ at the ICJ as they defended military operation against the Rohingya community at the UN’s top court.
Professor Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Karzon, who teaches on genocide at the University of Dhaka, said that the Myanmar side raised question about the jurisdiction of the ICJ, which was not unexpected.
‘The same court had exercised its jurisdiction on the allegations of genocide and genocidal intent in the cases involving Rwanda and Bosnia Herzegovina,’ he reminded.
He mentioned that Suu Kyi tried to assure the ICJ of conducting trial of the perpetrators of genocide, if any, in local courts of Myanmar.
‘With the assurance she, in a way, admitted the genocidal intent in an effort for granting them [the perpetrators] indemnity by local courts,’ Karzon added.
International lawyer Priya Pillai raised question about the motive of the Myanmar side which pointed out the absence of evidence of systematic killing in the case involving Rohingyas.
‘So basically, everyone should have been killed?’ she asked in her tweet.
Matthew Smith, co-founder of international rights group Fortify Rights, said that the Myanmar side argued against the allegation of Rohingya genocide by saying that the ‘total number of victims’ was not provided by the plaintiff, Gambia in this case.
‘Myanmar systematically prevented accurate casualty recording and denied monitors access,’ he said.
Contesting a claim by Myanmar lawyers insisting that the use of airpower was avoided in Rakhine except for ‘one’ instance in which forces used a helicopter, Smith said that Fortify Rights documented multiple attacks from the air against the Rohingya civilians.
Mentioning an argument advanced by a Myanmar lawyer that the ‘food deprivation’ might have been ‘designed’ to drive out Rohingyas rather than destroy them, Smith said, ‘That’s darn close to an admission of crimes.’
Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said that the defence team, including Suu Kyi, did not name ‘Rohingya’ as victims.
‘Denying a group its identity is evidence of a specific intent. This is nothing new. In 2016, she told the US not to use the word [Rohingya],’ he added.
The case, the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over reported killings of thousands of Rohingyas, began after the Muslim-majority Gambia on November 11 filed an application at the ICJ, accusing Myanmar of violating the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948.
More than 7 lakh Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The UNHCR and the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh failed in their two attempts to repatriate the first batch of Rohingya people under bilateral mechanisms as none of them agreed to go back referring to the absence of environment in Rakhine for return.
The on-going Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 1.2 million, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh authorities.
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