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ICJ orders Myanmar to stop Rohingya genocide, atrocities

The UN top court’s ruling a boon for Rohingyas, recognition of BD’s stand

Published : Friday, 24 January, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1463
Observer Desk

ICJs presiding Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf on Thursday giving unanimous ruling of 17-judge panel ordering Myanmar to stop Rohingya genocide and atrocities. The lawsuit was filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingyas at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands. 	PHOTO: REUTERS

ICJs presiding Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf on Thursday giving unanimous ruling of 17-judge panel ordering Myanmar to stop Rohingya genocide and atrocities. The lawsuit was filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingyas at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands. PHOTO: REUTERS

Finally, the UN's top court International Court of Justice (ICJ) stepped into the world's latest human crisis relating to Rohingya persecution by ordering Myanmar on Thursday to take urgent measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims and protect its Rohingya population from atrocities.
ICJ's order is a boon to over a million Rohingya refugees who have been sheltered by Bangladesh government in camps in Cox's Bazar. It is also UN top court's recognition of Bangladesh's cause of raising the Rohingya crisis in the world forum. Bangladesh has been relentlessly pressing the world to compel Myanmar to stop genocide of
Rohingya Muslims and ensure their safe return to their homes by guarantying  them their citizenship right in pursuance of Kofi Anan's Report.
The African country Gambia that moved the lawsuit in ICJ in November against Myanmar hailed the UN top court's verdict as a "triumph of International Justice."
In a unanimous verdict by the 17 judge panel the ICJ's presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said the Rohingyas face an ongoing threat and Myanmar must act to protect them.
Myanmar must "take all measures within its power to prevent all acts" prohibited under the 1948 Genocide Convention, and report back within four months, presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said, reading out a summary of the judgment.
Yusuf, the presiding judge, said the court was not satisfied with Myanmar's own efforts "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".
ICJ rejected arguments made by Myanmar's civilian leader Nobhel Laurent Aung Sung Suu Kyi in the Hague last month and gave the unanimous ruling which is final and binding on Myanmar.
The mainly Muslim African state of The Gambia had asked the court, set up after World War II as the UN's top judicial organ to rule in disputes between nations, to impose emergency measures following a 2017 military crackdown by Myanmar that sent around 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Thousands are suspected to have been killed in the crackdown and refugees brought widespread reports of rape and arson by Myanmar's military and local Buddhist militias.
The court ordered Myanmar to report back within four months, and then every six months after that. It also told Myanmar to prevent the destruction of any evidence of crimes against the Rohingya.
Gambian justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou hailed the court's decision to uphold his country's case, which was supported by the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands.
"This is a historic day today, not just for international law, for the international community, but especially for the Rohingya," he told reporters outside the court.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi -- who was widely criticised for her defence of the same military that once locked her up for years -- said on Thursday that some Rohingya refugees may have "exaggerated" the extent of the abuses.
"The international justice system may not yet be equipped to filter out misleading information before shadows of incrimination are cast over entire nations and governments," she wrote in an opinion piece in the Financial Times published ahead of the ruling.
The Myanmar military dodged questions in the capital Naypyidaw on Thursday morning, with a spokesman telling reporters it would simply "follow the instructions of the government".
The ICJ ruling was hailed in the Bangladeshi camps where some 600,000 people still remain.
"It's a great day for us," Mayyu Ali, a Rohingya author and poet, told AFP by telephone from Cox's Bazaar. "When the international court made its ruling today, I felt the gate of justice had been opened. I have the first taste of justice," he told AFP.
Rights groups also hailed the ICJ ruling while calling on the international community to put pressure on Suu Kyi and Myanmar.
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, who was dressed in traditional Rohingya clothing, said outside court: "The international community has to push to comply Burma with these provisional measures, otherwise (the) Rohingya will be much more destroyed."
"Today's decision sends a message to Myanmar's senior officials: the world will not tolerate their atrocities," Amnesty International's Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin said.
The ICJ's orders are binding but it has no power to enforce them.  However the "significance... shouldn't be written off," said Cecily Rose, assistant professor in international law at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
"The court's orders and judgments tend to carry relatively great authority or legitimacy. Even though the situation in Myanmar is highly political and fragile, international law still plays a role by informing decision-making among international actors," she added.
Gambia's justice minister, Abubacarr Tambadou, said: "The fact that judges have unanimously decided that genocide cannot be tolerated and that Rohingya need to be protected is a triumph for international justice."
 "Concerned governments and UN bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward."
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.
Gambia brought the case on the argument that all nations have a universal legal duty to prevent genocide. The case was argued last month by some of the world's top human rights lawyers, with Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi personally attending hearings at The Hague to ask judges to dismiss it.
Reuters adds: 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".

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