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Myanmar obliged to genocide convention: Top UN court

International Court of Justice issues 4-month deadline to Myanmar to take steps to prevent genocide of Rohingya

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 23.01.2020
Myanmar obliged to genocide convention: Top UN court

ANKARA

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Thursday observed that irrespective of the situation in Rakhine state, Myanmar remains under obligations as a state party to 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

After admitting the case of Rohingya genocide against Myanmar filed by Gambia, the ICJ said there may be an ongoing internal conflict in Rakhine but Myanmar is obliged to the genocide convention.

"Irrespective of the situation that the Myanmar Government is facing in Rakhine State, including the fact that there may be an ongoing internal conflict between armed groups and the Myanmar military and that security measures are in place, Myanmar remains under the obligations incumbent upon it as a State party to the Genocide Convention," the ICJ order read.

The ICJ bench comprising 17 judges -- one each nominated by Gambia and Myanmar -- which issued unanimous judgement, ordering Myanmar to implement at least four preventive measures to prevent genocide of Rohingya.

“The context invoked by Myanmar does not stand in the way of the [ICJ] Court’s assessment of the existence of a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights [of Rohingya] protected under the Convention,” the court said in its 28-page order.

The case was filed on Nov. 11, 2019 and hearings were held for three days in December at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Aboubacar Tambadou, Gambia’s attorney general and justice minister, represented the Rohingya. Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi defended the actions of her country’s army during the hearing held last month.

Tambadou had told the court: “Another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes yet we do nothing to stop it. This is a stain on our collective consciousness. It’s not only the state of Myanmar that is on trial here, it’s our collective humanity that is being put on trial.”

The Buddhist-majority Myanmar had asked the ICJ to drop the case from hearing.

In a packed room where officials from the two sides remained noting the points, the verdict was read by the ICJ President Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf -- who declared a four-month deadline for Myanmar to take preventive measures and ensure that Rohingya in the country would not be harmed.

It asked Myanmar to ensure no Rohingya is harmed and to submit a report to ICJ in four months.

Gambia was allowed to receive one such copy for its review and comments to the court.

In the court’s view, the ICJ order read, Rohingya in Myanmar appear to constitute a protected group within the meaning of Article 2 of the genocide convention.

The top UN court also observed that the relevant provisions in the convention against torture were “similar” to those in the genocide convention.

The court also held that in accordance with Article 1 of the convention, all state parties there to have undertaken “to prevent and to punish” the crime of genocide.

The 1948 Convention describes genocide any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group.

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The Court further observed that the provisions of the convention are intended to protect the members of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group from acts of genocide or any other punishable acts enumerated in Article 3.

It said there is a correlation between the rights of members of groups protected under the genocide convention, the obligations incumbent on states parties thereto, and the right of any state party to seek compliance therewith by another state party.

Since Myanmar is signatory to the UN's 1948 Prevention of Genocide Convention, Myanmar is obliged to adhere to preventive measures issued by the ICJ. But the ICJ order does in no way prejudges merits of the case or its admissibility.

Persecuted people

According to the Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed to Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

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