Over two years into Myanmar’s brutal military campaign against its Rohingya minority, its days of impunity seem to be coming to an end. Four developments in as many days over the last week ignited hopes for the prosecution of officials responsible for the genocidal campaign. First, The Gambia filed a case with the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingyas. Two days later, several rights bodies filed a lawsuit with an Argentine court against Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and several other top officials. On Thursday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague approved a full investigation into Myanmar’s crimes. The same day, in New York, a resolution was adopted at the third committee of the 74th UN General Assembly, which is expected to exert significant pressure on the Security Council to take action.
We hope the cumulative effects of these developments will finally hold accountable a repressive regime that has persecuted its minorities for decades, destabilising the entire region. But there are still barriers which call for a cautious optimism. Myanmar has rejected the ICC investigation while China, Russia and India had either vetoed the UN resolution or refrained from voting. Their persistent refusal, particularly of China and Russia, to stand up for human rights and justice for the Rohingyas is likely to continue. But these reactions are not unexpected, and the international community must not be blindsided by any such impediment now that the ball has finally started rolling.
Our expectation from the surge of global legal pressure is mainly three-fold: that it will lead to punishment for those responsible in Myanmar for the genocidal campaign; that it will provide fresh impetus to the stalled repatriation process; and that it will help in the consensus-building process to solve the Rohingya identity question and eventually force Myanmar to grant them citizenship and other rights.