Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of Genocide

Myanmar Rohingya: World court orders prevention of Genocide

23 January, 2020

Muslim child at displaced persons camp in Rakhine state, Myanmar - 23 January

More than half a million Muslims are still believed to live in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

The decision comes despite de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi defending her country against the accusations in person last month.

Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.

https://gist.github.com/samthor/64b114e4a4f539915a95b91ffd340acc

UN investigators have warned that genocidal actions could recur.

The ICJ case, lodged by the African Muslim-majority nation of The Gambia, called for emergency measures to be taken against the Myanmar military until a fuller investigation could be launched.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist state, has always insisted that its military campaign was waged to tackle an extremist threat in Rakhine state.

In her defence statement at the court in The Hague, Ms. Suu Kyi described the violence as an “internal armed conflict” triggered by Rohingya militant attacks on government security posts. How did this peace icon end up at a genocide trial?

What did the court say?

The panel of 17 judges at the ICJ on Thursday voted unanimously to order Myanmar to take “all measures within its power” to prevent genocide, which they said the Rohingya remained at serious risk of.

These include the prevention of killing, and “causing serious bodily or mental harm” to members of the group, as well as preserving evidence of possible genocide that has already occurred.

Presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said Myanmar should report back within four months on how it was implementing the ruling.

The measures are binding and not subject to appeal, but the court has no means of enforcing them. Rohingya refugee: “They killed my family in front of me”

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What now for Aung San Suu Kyi?

By Nick Beake, Myanmar correspondent, BBC News

This judgment has surely obliterated any remnants of Aung San Suu Kyi’s international reputation.

Remember, she didn’t have to go to The Hague and become the embodiment of Myanmar’s defence. She chose to argue, in person, there was no mass murder, rape or arson.

Even her biggest critics used to acknowledge she doesn’t control the still powerful Burmese army, but now she has destroyed the firewall between her and the generals by trying – and failing – to justify their actions.

So far, Myanmar has played by the rules of the International Court of Justice. But will it abide by these emergency measures?

Writing today in a British newspaper, Aung San Suu Kyi questioned whether the international justice system was capable of ignoring “unsubstantiated narratives” told by human rights groups and UN investigators against her country.

So, after initially engaging with the UN’s top court, will a defeated Aung San Suu Kyi retreat now into isolation?

Presentational grey line
What is Myanmar’s position?

During hearings at the court in December, Ms Suu Kyi asked the ICJ to drop the case, describing it as “incomplete and incorrect”.

And in an article for the Financial Times published shortly before the court’s judgment she said human rights groups had condemned Myanmar based on “unproven statements without the due process of criminal investigation”.media captionThe BBC saw the remains of burned villages on a tightly controlled government trip to Rakhine state

“The international condemnation has had a negative effect on Myanmar’s endeavours to bring stability and progress to Rakhine,” she said.

“It has undermined painstaking domestic efforts to establish co-operation between the military and the civilian government.”

Her remarks also appeared to echo a statement by a government-appointed panel earlier this week which accepted that war crimes may have been committed by individuals but said there was no indication of an intent to commit genocide.

However, the BBC’s Anna Holligan, who is in The Hague, says that by coming to the court in December, Ms Suu Kyi had in effect recognized its legitimacy and it will now be difficult for Myanmar to ignore its judgment.

What has been the reaction?

Rohingya groups have welcomed the decision.

“Today’s ruling by the ICJ is a crucial moment for Rohingya justice, and vindication for those of us who have lived through this genocide for decades,” tweeted Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.

“The court’s decision clearly shows that it takes the allegations of genocide seriously and that Myanmar’s hollow attempts to deny these have fallen on deaf ears.”

Human rights organization Amnesty International said the decision sent a message that the world would not tolerate Myanmar’s “atrocities”.

Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, who led the prosecution, said he was “very, very pleased”.

“I think this represents a triumph of international law and international justice. And it is the international community – as represented by the ICJ – saying in the strongest of terms that genocide will not be accepted under any circumstances by any perpetrators,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

But some Burmese people responding to a BBC Facebook live broadcast were scathing of the court and its judges.

“This is not a fair and just ruling. I would like to speak on behalf of the Myanmar people that those judges are blind. They are deaf. They do not know the real situation in the country,” said Nu Yimwin.

Kyaw Myint Oo described the ruling as a tragic day for the country: “Our situation is like being a prey gradually strangled by a python and eventually we will be forced to give in to all their demands.”

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said: “We hope good sense will prevail in Myanmar and they will take back all the Rohingya refugees and provide them security.”

What is the background to the case?

The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, is one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims are the largest community of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.

But Myanmar’s government denies them citizenship, refusing to recognize them as a people and seeing them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Waves of Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh over the decades but their latest exodus began on 25 August 2017 after militants from a Rohingya insurgent group called Arsa launched deadly attacks on more than 30 police posts.

Rohingyas arriving in Bangladesh said they fled after troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, responded by burning their villages and attacking and killing civilians.

The government claims that “clearance operations” against the militants ended on 5 September 2017, but analysis of satellite imagery by Human Rights Watch suggests hundreds of villages were destroyed after August that year.

May showing Rohingya villages destroyed in August and September 2017
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https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51221029

International Court of Justice Orders Burmese Authorities to Protect Rohingya Muslims from Genocide

Interview with Reed Brody

Published in:Democracy Now!

Author image

Reed Brody

Counsel and Spokesperson

In a major ruling, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague has ordered Burma to “take all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. The court issued the ruling Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Burma, also known as Myanmar, “extremely vulnerable” to military violence. The court ordered Burma to report regularly to the tribunal about its progress. The ruling is a sharp rebuke of Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who last month asked the court to drop the genocide case against Burma. Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent over a decade fighting against the Burmese military that she is now defending. For more on the ICJ ruling, we speak with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. “This is the most important court in the world intervening in one of the worst mass atrocity situations of our time while the atrocities are still happening,” says Brody. “It doesn’t really get more significant than that.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! In a major ruling, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague has ordered Burma to “take all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. The court issued the ruling Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Burma, also known as Myanmar, quote, “extremely vulnerable” to military violence. The court ordered Burma to report regularly to the tribunal about its progress.

The ruling is a sharp rebuke of Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who last month asked the court to drop the genocide case against Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Prize laureate. She spent over a decade fighting against the Burmese military, was imprisoned by them. She’s now defending them.

Gambia brought the genocide case to the International Court, accusing Burma of trying to, quote, “destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence.” The Burmese military killed and raped thousands of Rohingya and forced more than 700,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh in a brutal army crackdown in 2017.

This is Rohingya refugee Enamul Hassan reacting to the court’s ruling from Bangladesh.

ENAMUL HASSAN: [translated] For a long time the government of Myanmar tortured our Rohingya people. They tortured too much, raped our mothers and sisters, killed our men. After a long time, Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Rohingya people in the ICJ court. By the grace of Allah, we got a rule on behalf of the Rohingya people. And for that, we are very grateful to the Gambian government. Now we wait to go back to our country with our rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Alicante, Spain, where we’re joined by Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, via Democracy Now! video stream.

Reed, can you talk about the significance of the ruling of the International Court of Justice?

REED BRODY: Well, you know, this is the most important court in the world intervening in one of the worst atrocity — mass atrocity situations of our time, while the atrocities are still happening. So, it doesn’t really get more significant than that. As you mentioned, there are 700,000 Rohingyas who have been displaced into Bangladesh. There are hundreds of thousands in camps in Myanmar. Now, their situation obviously doesn’t just change overnight. But as a young Rohingyan poet said, “My brothers and sisters, the door to justice has opened today.” So I think, you know, this is a huge decision. And as you said, it’s a huge rebuke to Aung San Suu Kyi and to the military in Burma.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain Aung San Suu Kyi’s position? I mean, she is a Nobel peace laureate. She has long now defended the Burmese military in its genocide against the people, the Rohingya Muslims, and actually went to The Hague to testify on the military’s behalf — the military which imprisoned her and she fought against for decades.

REED BRODY: Well, obviously, she has thrown her lot in with the military. And I think she’s showing domestic public opinion that she hates the Rohingya as much as, you know, many others do. I mean, let’s remember that this is one of the most hated, persecuted minorities in the world. And I was reminded by this decision of the genocide conviction in Guatemala against Ríos Montt, in which the highland Mayan Indians, among the most marginalized people in the Americas — not as marginalized as the Rohingya — you know, were recognized as a group, and their rights were protected as victims of genocide. And I think the same thing is happening today. Aung San Suu Kyi never mentioned, and the government of Myanmar, in their response to yesterday’s ruling, never uses even the word “Rohingya.” But the court, the International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world, said the Rohingya are a group, and they’re entitled to protection from genocide. I think that’s — you know, that’s a major moment, not just for the Rohingya, but for international justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what is the enforcement mechanism? I mean, this court, the International Court of Justice, a part of the U.N., what does this mean?

REED BRODY: Well, theoretically, the decisions are binding, and they’re transmitted to the Security Council. Now, we know that the Security Council, China has a veto, and so the Security Council will not enforce the judgment. But the court did — first of all, the court established a reporting requirement. It said every — it said the first — in four months, the government of Burma has to account for what it’s doing and then every six months thereafter. So it’s almost like a court supervision of what’s going on. The General Assembly can take it up. The Human Rights Council in Geneva can take it up. I think whether Myanmar applies this decision is going very much to depend on the international pressure that will come. I mean, they were told not to destroy evidence. Well, we can see, and we have seen in the past, through aerial photos, where they’re destroying evidence. So, this is going to be — you know, it’s obviously going to take a lot, but there is an enforcement possibility and a mechanism that’s going to depend on international pressure.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about Gambia bringing this case, the speed with which the ICJ ruled? And what about other cases in the world where so many have died — for example, in Syria, what’s happening with the Uyghurs in China? Have any of these cases been brought, or even what U.S. is doing in the Middle East and in the Iraq War, etc., in the killing of Qassem Soleimani?

REED BRODY: Well, of course, you know, in terms of Gambia, I have to say, as you know, I work in the Gambia and I work closely with the attorney general there. And Gambia took this case actually on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to protect the Moslems, Rohingya. And the attorney general of the Gambia happened to have been a prosecutor of the Rwandan genocide, and he felt that he was seeing the same thing happen, and he took the lead. And he has a wonderful back story that really legitimizes this very rare instance of South-South solidarity, Gambia, little Gambia, sticking up for a minority all the way across the world.

It’s interesting that you mention China and the Uyghurs, because when — the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which should be standing up, as well, for the minority in China; instead, because of China’s not only military might but also China has the unprecedented campaign by China to silence international critics — it was the topic, actually, of Human Rights Watch’s world report last week. The OIC, Muslim countries in the world, actually adopted a statement praising China for how they care for the Muslim minority. So, in many ways, this is a question of political balance of power. In this case, Burma’s power is not the same internationally as China’s.

The case of Syria, you know, again, there’s a veto with Russia. Syria has not ratified these conventions. And Russia can veto, and China can veto, any accountability mechanism at that level. Now, there are a lot of cases around the world where individual countries, in France, Germany and other places, have arrested and are prosecuting people, Syrian officials who have engaged in repression. But, of course, it’s not the same as going to the state and going to the top.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch.

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International Court of Justice Orders Burmese Authorities to Protect Rohingya Muslims from Genocide

Interview with Reed BrodyPublished in:Democracy Now!

Author image

Reed Brody

Counsel and Spokesperson ReedBrod y ReedBrody

In a major ruling, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague has ordered Burma to “take all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. The court issued the ruling Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Burma, also known as Myanmar, “extremely vulnerable” to military violence. The court ordered Burma to report regularly to the tribunal about its progress. The ruling is a sharp rebuke of Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who last month asked the court to drop the genocide case against Burma. Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent over a decade fighting against the Burmese military that she is now defending. For more on the ICJ ruling, we speak with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. “This is the most important court in the world intervening in one of the worst mass atrocity situations of our time while the atrocities are still happening,” says Brody. “It doesn’t really get more significant than that.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! In a major ruling, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague has ordered Burma to “take all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide. The court issued the ruling Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Burma, also known as Myanmar, quote, “extremely vulnerable” to military violence. The court ordered Burma to report regularly to the tribunal about its progress.

The ruling is a sharp rebuke of Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who last month asked the court to drop the genocide case against Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Prize laureate. She spent over a decade fighting against the Burmese military, was imprisoned by them. She’s now defending them.

Gambia brought the genocide case to the International Court, accusing Burma of trying to, quote, “destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence.” The Burmese military killed and raped thousands of Rohingya and forced more than 700,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh in a brutal army crackdown in 2017.

This is Rohingya refugee Enamul Hassan reacting to the court’s ruling from Bangladesh.

ENAMUL HASSAN: [translated] For a long time the government of Myanmar tortured our Rohingya people. They tortured too much, raped our mothers and sisters, killed our men. After a long time, Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Rohingya people in the ICJ court. By the grace of Allah, we got a rule on behalf of the Rohingya people. And for that, we are very grateful to the Gambian government. Now we wait to go back to our country with our rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Alicante, Spain, where we’re joined by Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, via Democracy Now! video stream.

Reed, can you talk about the significance of the ruling of the International Court of Justice?

REED BRODY: Well, you know, this is the most important court in the world intervening in one of the worst atrocity — mass atrocity situations of our time, while the atrocities are still happening. So, it doesn’t really get more significant than that. As you mentioned, there are 700,000 Rohingyas who have been displaced into Bangladesh. There are hundreds of thousands in camps in Myanmar. Now, their situation obviously doesn’t just change overnight. But as a young Rohingyan poet said, “My brothers and sisters, the door to justice has opened today.” So I think, you know, this is a huge decision. And as you said, it’s a huge rebuke to Aung San Suu Kyi and to the military in Burma.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain Aung San Suu Kyi’s position? I mean, she is a Nobel peace laureate. She has long now defended the Burmese military in its genocide against the people, the Rohingya Muslims, and actually went to The Hague to testify on the military’s behalf — the military which imprisoned her and she fought against for decades.

REED BRODY: Well, obviously, she has thrown her lot in with the military. And I think she’s showing domestic public opinion that she hates the Rohingya as much as, you know, many others do. I mean, let’s remember that this is one of the most hated, persecuted minorities in the world. And I was reminded by this decision of the genocide conviction in Guatemala against Ríos Montt, in which the highland Mayan Indians, among the most marginalized people in the Americas — not as marginalized as the Rohingya — you know, were recognized as a group, and their rights were protected as victims of genocide. And I think the same thing is happening today. Aung San Suu Kyi never mentioned, and the government of Myanmar, in their response to yesterday’s ruling, never uses even the word “Rohingya.” But the court, the International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world, said the Rohingya are a group, and they’re entitled to protection from genocide. I think that’s — you know, that’s a major moment, not just for the Rohingya, but for international justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what is the enforcement mechanism? I mean, this court, the International Court of Justice, a part of the U.N., what does this mean?

REED BRODY: Well, theoretically, the decisions are binding, and they’re transmitted to the Security Council. Now, we know that the Security Council, China has a veto, and so the Security Council will not enforce the judgment. But the court did — first of all, the court established a reporting requirement. It said every — it said the first — in four months, the government of Burma has to account for what it’s doing and then every six months thereafter. So it’s almost like court supervision of what’s going on. The General Assembly can take it up. The Human Rights Council in Geneva can take it up. I think whether Myanmar applies this decision is going very much to depend on the international pressure that will come. I mean, they were told not to destroy evidence. Well, we can see, and we have seen in the past, through aerial photos, where they’re destroying evidence. So, this is going to be — you know, it’s obviously going to take a lot, but there is an enforcement possibility and a mechanism that’s going to depend on international pressure.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about Gambia bringing this case, the speed with which the ICJ ruled? And what about other cases in the world where so many have died — for example, in Syria, what’s happening with the Uyghurs in China? Have any of these cases been brought, or even what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East and in the Iraq War, etc., in the killing of Qassem Soleimani?

REED BRODY: Well, of course, you know, in terms of Gambia, I have to say, as you know, I work in the Gambia, and I work closely with the attorney general there. And Gambia took this case actually on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to protect the Moslems, Rohingya. And the attorney general of the Gambia happened to have been a prosecutor of the Rwandan genocide, and he felt that he was seeing the same thing happen, and he took the lead. And he has a wonderful back story that really legitimizes this very rare instance of South-South solidarity, Gambia, little Gambia, sticking up for a minority all the way across the world.

It’s interesting that you mention China and the Uyghurs, because when — the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which should be standing up, as well, for the minority in China; instead, because of China’s not only military might but also China has the unprecedented campaign by China to silence international critics — it was the topic, actually, of Human Rights Watch’s world report last week. The OIC, Muslim countries in the world, actually adopted a statement praising China for how they care for the Muslim minority. So, in many ways, this is a question of political balance of power. In this case, Burma’s power is not the same as internationally as China’s.

In the case of Syria, you know, again, there’s a veto with Russia. Syria has not ratified these conventions. And Russia can veto, and China can veto, any accountability mechanism at that level. Now, there are a lot of cases around the world where individual countries, in France, Germany and other places, have arrested and are prosecuting people, Syrian officials who have engaged in repression. But, of course, it’s not the same as going to the state and going to the top.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us, Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch.

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