Gambia on Tuesday formally started presenting its arguments in a genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands on Tuesday.
The West African country has asked the ICJ for “provisional measures” to stop further violence against Rohingya, minority Muslim community in Myanmar.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in the camps in Bangladesh are waiting for next week’s hearings. But because internet connectivity is so bad they might not be able to watch
“We hope that something will change after ICJ," 22-year-old Nowkhim told me.
— Poppy McPherson (@poppymcp) December 8, 2019
Aboubacar Tambadou, Gambia’s attorney general and justice minister, is fighting the case for Rohingya, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is present at the ICJ to defend the actions of her country’s army.
In his opening statement, Tambadou called on ICJ to direct Myanmar that it must “stop this genocide” of Rohingya Muslims. He quoted findings of UN Fact-Finding Mission to Rakhine state that was mostly populated by Rohingya Muslims.
“The state did not object and in fact endorsed the Tatmadaw’s [military] operations,” the Gambian team told the ICJ bench of jurists led by President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf. The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Read more: Bangladesh suspends mobile services in Rohingya camps
Last month, Gambia filed a genocide lawsuit against Myanmar at the UN’s highest court, a move termed as “historic achievement” by Rohingya community. The Gambian team also noted the use of hate speech in “fueling” violence against Rohingya.
The team said in its arguments that language and public atmosphere has been cultivated which treat the Rohingya as an “invasive species”.
Internment camps for Rohingya
With two sides presenting their arguments, the hearing will continue for three days. Myanmar is accused of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention in its so-called “clearance military operations” against the Rohingya.
Human rights campaigners supporting Rohingya, call for a global boycott of Myanmar – a day before genocide hearings begin at the ICJ https://t.co/nk5ucjErp5 pic.twitter.com/9fnHRRNKYA
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 9, 2019
The ICJ was told that Rohingya population is controlled by orders, security and checkpoints. “Myanmar is building more internment camps for those Rohingya who have not already been interned,” the Gambian team said.
“If Rohingya are to be protected from further genocide, it will be up to the court […],” the team added. Since World War II, this is the third such case at the world court against Myanmar.
In a statement, Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) said that there was “overwhelming evidence” of genocide committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya population.
Read more: Rohingya in Pakistan: Free from persecution and striving for success
“The court [ICJ] will have to ensure that justice can be delivered to the victims despite significant political hurdles,” BHRN noted.
However, it expressed pessimism that the case may go through the United Nations Security Council where China and Russia have veto power “who may act preemptively to protect Burma [Myanmar]”.
“Nations must ensure they put humanity before their political entanglements. Veto power comes with great moral responsibility and the misuse of it to protect one’s political interest would be a devastating blow to the morality and credibility of the international community if it allowed the perpetrators of genocide in Burma to escape any consequences,” Win said.
Rohingya refugees chanting "Gambia, Gambia" today in the camps of Cox's Bazar in anticipation of the first day of the ICJ hearing on Provisional Measures.@MSawyedullah pic.twitter.com/d8bS2B6xsQ
— Jessica Olney (@jessica_olney_1) December 10, 2019
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into 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.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
Read more: Rohingya refugees were welcomed in Bangladesh, but now there’s anger
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 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.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk.