The January 23 ruling by UN’s top court ordering Myanmar to implement measures to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide and to preserve evidence of atrocities committed against the minority group, has been dismissed by a Myanmar government official who reiterated that no genocide has been committed by the country’s military.
Zaw Htay, spokesman for the Myanmar’s President’s Office told reporters at a news briefing in the capital Naypyidaw that no genocide had occurred in Rakhine state, citing the findings of the government-appointed Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) that probed military operations during the crackdown.
The commission found that war crimes and serious human rights violations had occurred, but did not have “genocidal intent.”
“We have repeatedly said that there is no genocide in the country and never will be,” he said, echoing a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 23, the day of the ICJ’s decision.
“We have stated this in parliament ever since we signed the Genocide Convention,” he added. “We will stick to that.”
He cited Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, which Myanmar signed in December 1949, saying that the country has already ratified them.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling was in response to the lawsuit filed by the West African nation of The Gambia in November of last year on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention during the alleged expulsion of Rohingya to Bangladesh amid the violence targeting the minority community in Rakhine state in 2017.
Thousands of Rohingya perished as a result of the 2017 violence, which included indiscriminate killings, mass rape, torture, and village burnings. More than 740,000 others fled to safety in neighboring Bangladesh where they live in massive displacement camps.
The Gambia asked the court to issue provisional measures to ensure that atrocities against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority would not continue, and the ICJ ruling in The Hague supported the request.
Zaw Htay also said the government will take action against perpetrators of atrocities based on recommendations in the ICOE report.
Human rights groups have denounced the report as the latest in a series of efforts to whitewash atrocities against Rohingya in the wake of attacks on Myanmar border guards by Rohingya militants.
Nevertheless, Zaw Htay expressed confidence that Myanmar will prevail in the genocide case which could likely take years before the ICJ issues a final ruling. The ICJ on Tuesday gave Gambia until July 23 to submit its initial plea, while Myanmar has until January 25, 2021, to reply.
“When they issue the final ruling based on merit, Myanmar will definitely win,” he said.
In the meantime, the ICJ’s legally binding order requires that Myanmar prevent the killing or serious injury of the Rohingya, ensure that the military does not harm the Rohingya or conspire to commit genocide, preserve evidence related to the allegations, and report on its compliance with the measures until the court issues a final decision on the case. (Source: RFA)