The International Court of Justice (ICJ) yesterday ordered Myanmar to prevent all genocidal acts against Rohingya Muslims following an application by The Gambia to the world court.
Myanmar’s military committed extensive atrocities against the Rohingya, including murder, rape, and arson, that peaked during its late 2017 campaign of ethnic cleansing, forcing more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
On November 11th, 2019, The Gambia applied to the court stating that Myanmar military’s abuses in Rakhine State against the Rohingya violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and urgently sought provisional measures. The ICJ held hearings on The Gambia’s provisional measures request in December.
The ICJ provisional measures order is legally binding on the parties. In November, Myanmar explicitly recognised the ICJ’s authority and in December, Aung San Suu Kyi, representing Myanmar before the ICJ in her capacity as foreign minister, acknowledged the court’s role as a “vital refuge of international justice.”
The court unanimously ordered Myanmar to prevent all acts under article 2 of the Genocide Convention, ensure that its military does not commit genocide, and take effective measures to preserve evidence relating to underlying the genocide case. The court has also ordered Myanmar to report on its implementation of the order in four months, and then every six months afterwards.
A case before the ICJ can take years to reach a resolution.
Under article 41(2) of the ICJ Statute, the court’s provisional measures orders are automatically sent to the UN Security Council. Such an order will increase pressure on the council to take concrete action in Myanmar, including through a binding resolution to address some of the indicators of genocidal intent outlined in the comprehensive 2018 report of the international fact-finding mission.
“The ICJ order brings increased scrutiny of Myanmar’s horrific brutality against the Rohingya and raises the political cost of the UN Security Council’s weak response to the crisis so far. China and Russia should stop blocking the Security Council from taking action to protect the Rohingya.”said Human Rights Watch.
In filing the genocide case, The Gambia has the backing of the 57 members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation. On December 9th, 2019, the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, both parties to the Genocide Convention, announced that they considered it “their obligation to support The Gambia before the ICJ, as it should concern all of humanity.” On January 9th, 2020, the British government welcomed The Gambia’s case against Myanmar. Other parties to the convention should press Myanmar to comply with the court’s order, Human Rights Watch said. If Myanmar fails to act, The Gambia could raise Myanmar’s non-compliance with the Security Council under article 94 of the UN Charter.
“The growing global support for The Gambia’s case raises the stakes for Myanmar to engage in the ICJ process in a meaningful way and change its approach to the Rohingya,” said Human Rights Watch. “The Myanmar government cannot hide behind its powerful friends or the banner of sovereignty to escape its responsibilities under the Genocide Convention.”