Myanmar government has strongly rejected the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to create measures to prevent genocide of its Rohingya Muslim minority, characterising the ruling as a “distorted picture of the situation”.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said its own commission, the Independent Commission of Enquiry, found that there had been no genocide in Rakhine state. However, it did say that war crimes had occurred and were being investigated and prosecuted by Myanmar’s national criminal justice system.
It also blamed condemnation by “human rights actors” for affecting Myanmar’s bilateral relations with some countries.
“This has hampered Myanmar’s ability to lay the foundation for sustainable development in Rakhine,” it added in a statement.
The measures imposed by the UN’s top court are binding and not subject to appeal. However, the ICJ has no way of enforcing them.
The case was lodged by the African Muslim majority nation of The Gambia. The ruling warned that genocidal actions could recur.
Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist state, has always insisted that its military campaign was waged to tackle an extremist threat in Rakhine state.
Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.
During her defence statement at the court in The Hague, Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi described the violence as an “internal armed conflict” triggered by Rohingya militant attacks on government security posts.
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.
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 TunKhin, 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 organisation 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”.
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.” (Source: BBC)