A week after the UN top court ordered Myanmar to preserve evidence and take measures to protect its minority Rohingya from genocidal acts, a minister from violence-ridden Rakhine state said Wednesday (Jan 29) the order is not necessary as the government will not destroy evidence related to the allegations.
Colonel Min Than, Rakhine state’s minister for security and border affairs, told RFA’s Myanmar service that the central government has no reason to destroy evidence and has not issued any separate orders to take action with regard to the ICJ’s ruling.
“Our government will never eliminate the evidence,” he said. “Nobody would do that, so the order to preserve the evidence is totally unnecessary. We have never tried to destroy it.”
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order on Jan. 23 for Myanmar to take the provisional measures in response to a request by the West African nation The Gambia, which filed a lawsuit against the Southeast Asian nation in November for alleged atrocities against the Rohingya during a military-led crackdown in Rakhine in 2017.
Thousands of Rohingya died during the campaign of violence, which included indiscriminate killings, mass rape, and village burning, while more than 740,000 others fled across the border to Bangladesh.
Though a verdict in the ICJ case could be years in coming, the preservation of evidence is crucial for other legal action being taken against specific individuals accused of ordering the violence in cases at the International Criminal Court and in an Argentine court.
In the days following the ICJ’s decision, Myanmar government officials have said that the court’s order repeats what they have already been doing to hold to account those found guilty of committing atrocities by military courts, and that they will not take any additional measures.
The government has largely denied the accusations and defended the actions of the military, saying soldiers were carrying out a “clearance operation” in northern Rakhine following deadly attacks by Rohingya militant groups.
The online journal The Irrawaddy reported that the ICJ on Tuesday said that The Gambia must submit its initial pleading in the genocide case by July 23, while Myanmar has until January 25, 2021, to reply in a case that could drag on for years. (Source: RFA)