Gambia files case against Myanmar at UN court
Published: 07:20 PM, 11 November 2019 Updated: 09:34 PM, 11 November 2019
The Gambia has filed a case against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over Rohingya genocide, rape and destruction in Rakhine state.
Gambia's Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou filed this case. -Reports Reuters.
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which not only prohibits states from committing genocide but also compels all signatory states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
If the ICJ takes up the case, it will be the first time the court in The Hague has investigated genocide claims on its own without relying on the findings of other tribunals, such as the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which it consulted for claims against Serbia and Croatia.
Under the rules of the ICJ, the application argues, member states can bring actions against other member states over disputes alleging breaches of international law – in this case, the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
The Gambia, a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, has taken the legal lead in drafting the claim against Myanmar. It is being supported by other Muslim states. An initial hearing is expected at the ICJ in December.
“We have just submitted a 46-page application to the ICJ under the Genocide Convention,” Tambadou told a news conference in The Hague, where the court is based.
“The aim is to get Myanmar to account for its action against its own people: the Rohingya. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right under our own eyes.”
His tiny West African nation, which is predominantly Muslim, has filed its case with the support of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar district of them over 730,000 arrived there since August 25, 2017, after a military crackdown by Myanmar, which the UN called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" by other international rights groups.
Myanmar, which has a Buddhist majority, denies accusations of genocide and says its crackdown targeted militant separatists in Rakhine state.
In its filing, Gambia asked the court to grant so-called provisional measures to make sure Myanmar immediately “stops atrocities and genocide against its own Rohingya people”.
The law firm helping Gambia, Foley Hoag, said it expected the first hearings on the provisional measures to take place next month.
About 95% of Gambia’s population is Muslim, and its role was welcomed by human rights groups. Its attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, previously served as a special assistant to the prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda. He was instrumental in encouraging the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to support the case against Myanmar.
Human rights groups that have been pushing the international community to act in the Rohingya crisis hailed Gambia’s move.
In the application, the vice-president of the Gambia, Isatou Touray, describes her state as “a small country with a big voice on matters of human rights on the continent and beyond”.
“Gambia has found a way to turn the international community’s handwringing over the Rohingya into action,” Param-Preet Singh of Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
While the ICJ has no means to enforce any of its rulings, going against the decisions of the court could further harm Myanmar’s international reputation.
The prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC), also in The Hague, has already opened a preliminary investigation against Myanmar. Because the country has not signed up to the court, however, the claim relies on more complex legal basis that the alleged crime of deportation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees partially took place inside neighbouring Bangladesh, which is a member of the ICC.