Rohingya genocide case: The Gambia v. Myanmar
Rohingya refugees are the refugees, who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. The Rohingya Refugee crisis is considered as a burning issue in the world. Rohingya refugees took refuge in Bangladesh to escape the genocide that began by Myanmar's military. More than 671,000 Rohingya refugees have gathered in Cox's Bazar district since August 2017. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of March 2019, approximately 909,000 Rohingya refugees took shelter in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas.
When the maximum countries were silent about the issue of Myanmar's genocide and the Rohingyas of Bangladesh, the Gambia an African country has raised its voice. In 1974 The Republic of Gambia became a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The country as a member of the OIC, has undertaken legal action against Myanmar last year. And it had raised its voice in favour of the persecuted Rohingyas to stop genocide in Myanmar. Simultaneously the country has called on the Myanmar government to protect the Rohingya people from the violence and to stop abusing military force.
Why the Gambia, not Bangladesh?
Article 9 of the Convention on Genocide states that, in case of any violation of this Convention, any state may sue the accused state before the court. Gambia filed a case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on November 11, 2019, calling the incident "genocide".
18 states raised objections against the provisions of the refugee convention. 11 of which were later withdrawn. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is one of the remaining countries. In 1996, Bangladesh declared that, to take any dispute to the International Court of Justice, the consent of all parties to the dispute would be required in each case. The Gambia ratified the 1967 convention without objection or declaration. As a result, The Republic of Gambia was free for framing the case against Myanmar.
What are the arguments of Myanmar?
The state counsellor of Myanmar directly disagrees the genocide allegation, which has been raised by the Gambia. Myanmar claimed that the acts of the military were excessive but it cannot be called genocide. The military of Myanmar was not the first to do so, they were attacked by Rakhine locals firstly.
What does The Gambia seek from the ICJ?
The Republic of Gambia has claimed several determinations from the ICJ: Myanmar has violated the provisions of the Genocide Convention. Myanmar has to take the initiatives for their heinous act per their domestic legal systems. For preventing genocide Myanmar must adjourn those acts which are violating the conventional provisions. The government of Myanmar has to allow the Rohingya to return them to Myanmar, assuring their citizenship and confirming their protection also. Myanmar must promise not to commit further this type of violations.
What ICJ said?
International Court of Justice (ICJ) The UN-sponsored ICJ in The Hague, the Netherlands, on January 23 ordered an immediate end to violence and discrimination against the Rohingya people. A total of 16 judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have unanimously ordered Myanmar to take four-point interim measures to protect the Rohingya people. The interim measures are:
1. According to Rule 2 of the Genocide Charter, Myanmar must refrain from killing, injuring, or traumatizing the Rohingya within its borders, wiping out the entire population or part of it, and imposing restrictions on their birth.
2. Myanmar must ensure that it does not engage in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to genocide, attempted genocide or collaborate in genocide, openly or secretly
3. In the light of Rule 2 of the Genocide Charter, all evidence related to the allegation of genocide must be protected, and attempts to destroy it must be prevented.
4. Within four months of the issuance of this order, the court must be informed of the steps taken by Myanmar following the court order. From then until the final decision of the court, the matter has to be reported every six months.
Why this case is important:
The activity of Myanmar has violated the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention--UNHCR. In the eye of International law, every state is equal; no state has the right of invading individuals. Moreover, International law protects human rights also. For this reason, after taking allegation on the ground of genocide The Gambia requested to the court that Myanmar should take all initiatives to prevent all genocidal acts and should take measures for protecting the human rights of refugees.
Based on this ground, the case of Gambia will play an effective role as an example for all the independent states of the world. In their case, it is clear that no state can violate the provisions of UNHCR and everyone is bound and should respect International law and international organizations.
Though Bangladesh is not a party to the aforesaid case, this is significant for Bangladesh, because Bangladesh hosts Rohingya refugees into its territory for a long time. Nowadays, Rohingya refugees became a problem for Bangladesh. These situations need a permanent solution at any cost. Bangladesh Government already tried to resolve this problem by bilateral treaties. But, with the soft nature of international law, the problem could not be solved. On the other hand, neither Bangladesh nor Myanmar is a party to the Refugee convention of 1951. In this respect, this problem can only be possible by the political will of the country not by international law. However, the importance of the Rohingya genocide case (The Gambia v. Myanmar) is undeniable.
The writer is student, Department of Law & Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific