ICJ ruling on genocide case: Time to mount pressure on Myanmar
The verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has created a new scope for the world to mount pressure on Myanmar military for ensuring justice for the Rohingyas, analysts and rights activists say.
Rejecting Myanmar's all preliminary objections to the Gambia's genocide case, the ICJ on Friday issued a verdict that the case against Myanmar would proceed.
Myanmar will now have to submit its counter argument by April next and then the ICJ is likely to deliver its final verdict by 2024, diplomatic sources said.
Genocide researchers say the UN has already documented grave rights violations by the Myanmar military over decades. The US also early this year determined that the Myanmar army committed genocide against the Rohingyas -- a year after the military's taking control of the elected civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
The National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government in exile by the ousted MPs of Suu Kyi's party, also declared that they support the ICJ case and pledged to provide the court with necessary documents about the genocide.
The Rohingyas in Myanmar have been facing genocidal acts for decades, which forced time and again hundreds of thousands of them to flee to Bangladesh from Rakhine State where they are denied citizenship and fundamental rights.
The influx of about 750,000 Rohingyas in 2017 was the biggest one, which promoted the Gambia with support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to go to the top UN court in The Hague in November 2019.
After hearing the Gambia's request, the ICJ issued provisional measures ordering Myanmar to prevent all genocidal acts against the Rohingya, to ensure that security forces do not commit acts of genocide, and to take steps to preserve evidence related to the case.
In January last year, Myanmar filed preliminary objections challenging the court's jurisdiction and the Gambia's standing in the case, arguing that the Gambia was not directly affected and so it had no jurisdiction to file the case. It also argued that the OIC was actually behind the case and it also didn't have that jurisdiction. The ICJ rejected all the objections.
"We see that the ICJ since the beginning supported the Rohingya cause. It also addressed them as Rohingyas, a term that is related to the ethnic identity. So, this verdict is a crucial one for Rohingya justice and their repatriation," said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of the Centre for Genocide Studies under Dhaka University's international relations department.
Pressured by the ICJ verdict, Myanmar will now act seriously on Rohingya repatriation, he told The Daily Star yesterday.
"This will enable Bangladesh to negotiate better with Myanmar. Bangladesh, however, needs to be careful so that Myanmar does not make it a token repatriation. The root causes of the problem need to be addressed."
Imtiaz said Bangladesh also needs to engage countries like India, Japan, alongside China, in the repatriation process so that it is done in a more effective way.
In 2020, only Canada and the Netherlands formally joined the Gambia case for holding Myanmar accountable. Later, the US pledged providing some financial support for the case.
"I think it is time Bangladesh start talking to the US and other like-minded countries for them to join the case and making financial contributions," the DU teacher said.
Nay San Lwin, coordinator of Free Rohingya Coalition, said they are hoping that Myanmar will take necessary measures to create conducive conditions for Rohingya repatriation as it is under fresh pressure following the IJC verdict.
Myanmar is yet to implement the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ. Frequent fights occur between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military in Rakhine State, and the Rohingyas are becoming the victims of those incidents, he said.
The UN and other aid agencies don't have unfettered access to the Rohingya communities in the Northern Rakhine State, while more than 130,000 Rohingyas still live in the camps in Rakhine -- something that suggests Myanmar army is still not caring about the ICJ provisional measures, said Lwing, a Rohingya leader living in Germany.
He called for all UN member states to rally behind the Gambia to bring an end to the atrocities by the Myanmar military.
"By holding the military to account for its atrocities against the Rohingya, the World Court could provide the impetus for greater international action towards justice for all victims of the Myanmar security forces' crimes," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement yesterday.
The HRW said ethnic groups and human rights defenders have aligned in Myanmar to push for the establishment of democratic rule, efforts that are amplified by the pursuit of justice at the ICJ.
"Concerned governments seeking to be leaders for accountability in Myanmar should formally intervene in the Genocide Convention case.
"The case provides an important opportunity to scrutinise the Myanmar military's abusive policies and practices that have preserved its power over decades," Pearson said.