International Court says it has jurisdiction, the Myanmar genocide case to move forward

  • Court rules brought by Gambia can move forward
  • A full hearing could take years
  • Myanmar denies genocide

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The International Court on Friday rejected Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, paving the way for the case to be fully heard.

Myanmar, which is now ruled by the military junta that seized power in 2021, has argued that Gambia, which brought the case, does not have the capacity to do so in the United Nations High Court, officially known as the International Court of Justice.

But Presiding Judge Joan Donoghue said all countries that signed the 1948 Genocide Convention can and must act to prevent genocide, and that the court has jurisdiction in the case.

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“The Gambia, as a state party to the Genocide Convention, has standing,” she said, as she read the summary of the 13-judge panel’s ruling.

The court will now proceed to hear the merits of the case, a process that will take years.

Gambia took up the Rohingya cause in 2019, backed by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in a lawsuit aimed at holding Myanmar to account and preventing further bloodshed.

Gambian Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said outside the courtroom he was “extremely pleased” with the decision and was confident the case would prevail.

Gambia became involved after his predecessor, Abubakar Tambadou, a former prosecutor at the United Nations Tribunal for Rwanda, visited a refugee camp in Bangladesh and said the stories he had heard evoked memories of the Rwandan genocide.

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Myanmar’s representative said the state would make “every effort” to protect the country’s “national interest” in further actions.

The demonstrators outside the court gates raised a red banner that read “Free Burma” and shouted at cars carrying representatives of the military council as they left the building after the decision.

A UN fact-finding mission concluded that Myanmar’s 2017 military campaign that drove 730,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh included “acts of genocide”.

Myanmar has denied genocide and dismissed the UN findings as “biased and flawed”. It says its crackdown was aimed at Rohingya rebels who carried out attacks.

While the decisions of the Hague Tribunal are binding and generally followed by states, they have no means of enforcing them.

In a temporary resolution passed in 2020, Myanmar ordered that the Rohingya be protected from harm, a legal victory that established their right under international law as a protected minority.

But Rohingya groups and rights activists say there has been no serious attempt to end their systematic persecution.

Rohingyas are still denied citizenship and freedom of movement in Myanmar. Tens of thousands have now been trapped in miserable displacement camps for a decade.

In a statement, the Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the ruling.

“For the victims who live in the camps in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar, they see hope that justice will be served to them and that perpetrators in the Myanmar military will be held accountable,” said Ambia Parveen of the European Rohingya Council. outside the court.

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The junta has imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who personally advocated for Myanmar at 2019 hearings in The Hague.

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(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Bobby McPherson in Bangkok); Editing by Peter Graf and Alison Williams

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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