UN top court says Myanmar genocide case can proceed

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ), United Nations’ highest court ruled on Friday (July 22) that Rohingya genocide case against military-ruled Myanmar can go ahead. ICJ in The Hague has rejected all objections from Myanmar to a case filed by west African nation of Gambia. The case was filed in 2019. The decision means that full hearings can take place at the court over Myanmar’s violent crackdown on the Rohingya.

ICJ president Joan Donoghue said the tribunal “finds that it has jurisdiction… to entertain the application filed by the republic of the Gambia, and that the said application is admissible”.

Five years ago, Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar to escape the crackdown. There were reports of murder, arson and rape.

Around 850,000 Rohingya are languishing in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh while another 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar’s southwestern Rakhine state.

At ICJ initially, Myanmar was represented by Nobel laureate and former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However, her regime was toppled last year by Myanmar military.

Mainly-Muslim Gambia filed the case in November 2019 alleging that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya breached the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Myanmar had argued that the court had no jurisdiction in this matter. It had demanded that the case be dismissed in preliminary stages. However, Myanmar assertion that Gambia was acting as “proxy” of Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) was rejected unanimously by the judges.

Also Read | Myanmar soldiers tortured civilians: Report

Only states, and not organisations, are allowed to file cases at the ICJ, which has ruled on disputes between countries since just after World War II.

Judges also unanimously dismissed Myanmar’s contention that Gambia was not direct party to the alleged genocide and hence could not file the case.

Finally, they threw out by 15-1 Myanmar’s claim that there was no formal dispute at the time Gambia filed the case, and that the court therefore had no jurisdiction.

It could however take years for full hearings and a final judgment in the case.

(With inputs from agencies)

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