World Court orders Myanmar to take steps to protect Rohingya

Published January 23, 2020
“The court is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable,” says Yusuf, the presiding judge. — Reuters
“The court is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable,” says Yusuf, the presiding judge. — Reuters

The International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Myanmar to take urgent measures to protect its Muslim Rohingya population from persecution and atrocities, and preserve evidence of alleged crimes against them.

Mostly Muslim Gambia launched a lawsuit in November at the United Nations’ highest body for disputes between states, accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya in violation of a 1948 convention.

Thursday’s ruling dealt only with Gambia’s request for so-called preliminary measures, the equivalent of a restraining order for states. While the court’s final decision could take years to reach, the 17 judge panel made clear in a unanimous ruling that the court believes the Rohingya are in danger now, and steps must be taken to protect them.

The Rohingya remain “at serious risk of genocide,” presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said, reading a summary the decision. Myanmar shall “take all measures within its power to prevent all acts” prohibited under the 1948 Genocide Convention, the ruling said. Myanmar must report back within four months.

It ordered the government of Myanmar to exercise influence over its military and other armed groups to prevent “killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life intended to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military-led crackdown in 2017, and were forced into squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh. U.N. investigators concluded that the military campaign had been executed with “genocidal intent”.

Moments before the court in The Hague began reading its ruling, the Financial Times published an article by Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in which she said war crimes may have been committed against Rohingya Muslims but that refugees had exaggerated the abuses against them.

During a week of hearings last month, Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, had asked the judges to drop the case.

The World Court’s rulings are final and without appeal, although it has no real way of enforcing them.

'Extremely vulnerable'

“The court is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable,” said Yusuf, the presiding judge.

“Moreover, the court is of the opinion that the steps which [Myanmar] claimed to have taken to facilitate the return of Rohingya refugees present in Bangladesh, to promote ethnic reconciliation, peace and stability in Rakhine State, and to make its military accountable for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, do not appear sufficient.”

More than 100 Myanmar civil society groups published a statement saying they hoped international justice efforts would “bring forth the truth” and end impunity.

“Political and military policies have always been imposed with violent force and intimidation upon the people of Myanmar, systematically and institutionally, on the basis of their political and religious beliefs and ethnic identities and continue until the present,” the statement said.

“We understand very clearly that the ICJ case against Myanmar is directed toward those responsible for using political power and military might, and not to the people of Myanmar.”

Opinion

Editorial

UAE targeted
Updated 19 Jan, 2022

UAE targeted

MONDAY’S deadly drone strikes by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the UAE, and subsequent retaliatory attacks on...
19 Jan, 2022

New province debate

THE private bill introduced by a PML-N senator seeking a new province in south Punjab amounts to oversimplification...
19 Jan, 2022

Omicron in Karachi

WITH the wedding season in full swing, it is no surprise that the Covid positivity rate in Karachi has been touching...
The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...