The International Court of Justice is scheduled for today to pronounce its decision on whether provisional measures should be imposed on Myanmar over alleged protracted genocide against religious and ethnic minority Rohingyas in Rakhine States.
The top UN court set the date for the interim ruling a month after Myanmar’s civilian leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to The Hague to defend the 2017 crackdown by her nation’s army against the Rohingyas.
Earlier in December 10-12, 2019, the ICJ court held a public hearing on the application filed Gambia under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide seeking provisional measures.
Gambia brought the case against Buddhist-majority Myanmar in November 2019 with the backing of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation. Canada and the Netherlands have since also lent their support.
The plaintiff also sought provisional measures to be imposed on the Myanmar authorities, including the military and paramilitaries, to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide, extrajudicial killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, burning of homes, destruction of lands and villages etc.
Gambia also sought, among other measures, a ruling asking the Myanmar authorities not to destroy, alter and render inaccessible any evidence related to genocide in Rakhine.
‘The aim is to get Myanmar to account for its action against its own people: the Rohingya,’ agent of Gambia Abubacarr Tambadou told the court on December 10, 2019.
Suu Kyi in his arguments told the court that the army might have used excessive force against the Rohingyas, but the case was based on ‘misleading and incomplete’ claims.
The 74-year-old, once regarded as a rights icon in the West, also said that the case risked reigniting the crisis.
Suu Kyi’s defence of the generals was widely condemned in the West but proved popular at home with a public largely unsympathetic to the plight of the Rohingyas.
Myanmar also faces other legal challenges over the Rohingya, including a probe by the International Criminal Court — a separate war crimes tribunal — and a lawsuit in Argentina which notably alleges Suu Kyi’s complicity.
More than 7.40 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 ongoing 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.
The UNHCR and the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh failed in their two attempts to repatriate the first batch of Rohingyas under bilateral mechanisms as none of them agreed to go back referring to the absence of environment in Rakhine for return.
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention that prohibits the member states from committing genocide as well as prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
The ICJ is composed of mainly 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the UN. Both Gambia and Myanmar appointed two additional judges, one by each country, to hear this case.
Although the ICJ has no direct means to enforce any of its rulings, it might make decisions on whether genocide was committed and actions were done with genocidal intent by authorities in a signatory country.
The ICJ might ask the UN to constitute an international tribunal for holding trial of people found engaged in genocide or in actions committed with genocidal intent.
Judgements of the ICT have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned.
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