UN tribunal rejects Myanmar claims, will hear Rohingya case

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Judges at the United Nations’ highest court on Friday dismissed Myanmar’s preliminary objections to a case alleging the Southeast Asian nation is responsible for genocide against the ethnic minority Rohingya.

The decision establishing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice paves the way for hearings highlighting evidence of atrocities against the Rohingya that human rights groups and a UN probe say they violate the 1948 Genocide Convention. In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the violent crackdown on the Rohingya population in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, amounts to genocide.

Tun Khin, chairman of Britain’s Organization of Burmese Rohingyas, welcomed the decision, saying 600,000 Rohingya “still face genocide”, while “a million people in camps in Bangladesh await hope for justice”. .

The African nation of Gambia filed the case in 2019 amid international outrage over the treatment of Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid a brutal crackdown by Myanmar forces in 2017 He argued that The Gambia and Myanmar were parties to the 1948 convention and that all signatories had a duty to enforce it.

The court judges agreed.

Reading a summary of the decision, the presiding judge, U.S. Judge Joan E. Donoghue, said: “Any state party to the Genocide Convention may invoke the responsibility of another state party, including by introducing of a court proceeding.

A small group of pro-Rohingya protesters gathered outside the courthouse, the Peace Palace, ahead of the ruling with a banner that read, “Speed ​​up justice for the Rohingya. Genocide survivors cannot wait for generations.

A protester stamped a large photograph of the head of Myanmar’s military government, Chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

The court dismissed arguments raised at hearings in February by lawyers representing Myanmar that the case should be thrown out because the international court only adjudicates state-to-state disputes and the Rohingya complaint was filed by The Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The judges also rejected Myanmar’s assertion that The Gambia could not file the case because it was not directly related to the events in Myanmar and that there was no legal dispute between the two countries before the filing of the case.

Myanmar’s representative, Ko Ko Hlaing, minister for international cooperation in the military government, said his country “will do its best to defend our country and protect our national interests”.

Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow, said: “We are very pleased that justice has been served.

The Netherlands and Canada have supported The Gambia, saying in 2020 that the country “has taken a commendable step towards ending impunity for those who commit atrocities in Myanmar and upholding this commitment. Canada and the Netherlands consider it our duty to support these efforts which concern all of humanity.

However, the court ruled on Friday that it “would not be appropriate” to send the two countries copies of the documents and legal arguments filed in the case.

Myanmar’s military launched what it called a mine clearance campaign in Rakhine state in 2017 following an attack by a group of Rohingya insurgents. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of mass rapes, murders and burning down thousands of Rohingya homes.

In 2019, lawyers representing The Gambia at the ICJ exposed their genocide claims by showing judges maps, satellite images and graphic photos of the military campaign. This led the court to order Myanmar to do everything possible to prevent the genocide against the Rohingya. The interim decision was intended to protect the minority while the case goes to trial in The Hague, a process likely to take years.

The International Court of Justice adjudicates disputes between states. It is not linked to the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals accountable for atrocities. ICC prosecutors are investigating crimes committed against Rohingya who were forced to flee to Bangladesh.

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