Gambia has 'failed' to explain genocidal intent: Myanmar

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi attends a hearing on the second day of hearings in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Myanmar's lawyer William Schabas today claimed that the Gambia has failed to explain genocidal intent in the crimes that took place in Rakhine state in 2017.

There is no chance for the applicant to succeed in the case, he claimed while placing his argument at the UN top court in The Haque, a day after the Gambia brought the allegation of genocide in Rohingya villages in Rakhine of Myanmar.

Meanwhile, legal experts said the arguments presented by the Gambia's lawyers at the top UN court yesterday were extremely strong and should convince the judges to issue "provisional measures" against Myanmar to stop genocide against the Rohingyas.

Speaking in Myanmar's defense on the second day of 3 days' hearing at the UN's highest court today, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi ruled out the allegation of ongoing genocide or genocidal intent at Rohingya villages in Rakhine of Myanmar.

"How can there be an ongoing genocide or genocidal intent as concrete steps are being taken in Rakhine? Rakhine today suffers an internal arm conflict between the Buddhist Arakan army and Myanmar defence forces. Muslims are not part of this conflict," she told the court.

Rejecting the accusations of genocide committed against Muslim Rohingya minority, she termed the Gambia's claim as "incomplete and misleading".

Myanmar has previously denied almost all allegations made by refugees against its troops, including of mass rape, killings and arson, and promised to punish any soldiers involved in what it says were isolated cases of wrongdoing.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission in its 2018 report detailed the atrocities committed by the Myanmar Army during its clearance operations against the Rohingyas.

Since 1982, Rohingyas were denied citizenship, basic rights, including education, health, marriage, birth and freedom of movements -- elements that carry intents of genocide.

Myanmar policies and laws and actions since 1962 were aimed at eliminating the group in part or in whole, UN investigators said in its report.

A woman sobs after she lost two little sons amid the hubbub of Rohingyas gathering to collect relief at Balukhali on September 27, 2017. Photos: Anisur Rahman

UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, based on his own fact-finding activities, including interviews with survivors who had fled to Bangladesh, stated: "Rohingya Muslims have been killed, tortured, raped, burnt alive and humiliated, solely because of who they are.  All the information I have received indicates that the intent of the perpetrators was to cleanse northern Rakhine state of their existence, possibly even to destroy the Rohingya as such, which, if proven, would constitute the crime of genocide.

What did the Gambia say in yesterday's hearing?

The Gambia yesterday unfolded the evident genocide against Rohingyas on the first of three days of hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Rohingya people were killed, their children were thrown into fire, women were raped, houses were burnt down, the Gambian legal team told the judges adding that it was ethnic cleansing that stemmed from unjustifiable intolerance.

Photographers help a Rohingya refugee to come out of Naf River as they cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Palong Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 1, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Massacres of Tula Toli and Chut Pyin villages

The legal team representing The Gambia presented the massacres of the villages of Tula Toli and Chut Pyin as an example.

"The first round of shooting was like a rain of bullets. The second round was slow as the soldiers killed the men individually. They aimed a gun at each man and shot," Lowenstein stated, reading out descriptions of the Tula Toli massacre from the UN fact-finding mission's report.

"Soldiers then turned to the women and children who, after being separated from the men, were forced to sit in a lowered area on the shore. Some of the children were shot, some thrown into the river, and others thrown onto a fire."

How the women were gang-raped

He then continued to describe how the women were gang-raped, locked inside their houses and the houses then set on fire.

The lawyer also presented satellite images captured during the time when these villages were burning to prove how only Rohingya homes were being set on fire, while Buddhist Rakhine homes were being spared.

Myanmar's genocidal intent is evident

"The fact that Myanmar has genocidal intent is shown by its toleration for hate rhetoric and public hatred of the Rohingya," he said.

"The fact-finding mission also concluded that Myanmar's genocidal intent is evident in its lack of remorse. The Tatmadaw's actions are glorified."

Another lawyer, Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, presented how the Rohingyas placed in internment camps, long before the violence of 2017.

Again citing the UN report, the lawyer described how after the 2012 violence in the Rakhine State, the population was cordoned off into military-controlled camps surrounded by barbed wires, and they were not allowed freedom of movement.

Evidence is overwhelming

"We believe that the evidence is not just sufficient, but it is overwhelming. The court has never had such comprehensive or such compelling evidence of the commission of genocidal acts as it has before it now," commented Paul Reichler, the head of the legal team.

 "The genocide in Rwanda was a failure of humanity that can easily happen again. Mr President, tragically, it has happened again, in Myanmar. The time to prevent further genocide is now, because nothing less will protect the Rohingya from further destruction as a group," he concluded.

The UN fact-finding mission has already described the brutal crackdown of Myanmar army as genocide.

Rohingya Repatriation
This Reuters photo taken on September 8, 2017 shows Rohingya refugees climb up a hill after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Another genocide unfolding

Gambia's Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, in his opening comments said, "Another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes yet we do nothing to stop it."

"This is a stain on our collective conscience. It's not only the state of Myanmar that is on trial here, it's our collective humanity that is being put on trial."

"All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings," he told the UN top court.

"I stand before you to awaken the conscience of the world and arouse the voice of the international community," said Tambadou, a former prosecutor at the tribunal into Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

"In the words of Edmund Burke, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'."

Tambadou went on, "Every day of inaction means more people are being killed, more women are being raped and more children are being burned alive. For what crime? Only that they were born different."