UN top court to rule whether Rohingya genocide case can proceed

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is expected to rule on Friday (July 22) on Myanmar’s objections to a genocide case over its treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The world court’s decision could pave the way for the case to be heard in full. Myanmar’s military junta has argued that Gambia, which brought the suit, had no standing to do so at the UN top court.

Gambia’s then Attorney-General took up the cause of the Rohingya people after visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Gambia argues that all countries have a duty to uphold the 1948 Genocide Convention.

This is backed by the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in a suit aiming to hold Myanmar accountable and prevent further bloodshed.

A separate UN fact-finding mission concluded that a 2017 military campaign by Myanmar that drove 730,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh had included “genocidal acts”.

If judges reject Myanmar’s objections, it paves the way for the case to be heard in full on its merits – a process that will take years. A ruling in Myanmar’s favour would end the ICJ case.

While the court’s decisions are binding and countries generally follow them, it has no way of enforcing them.

In a 2020 provisional decision it ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya from genocide, a legal victory that established their right under international law as a protected minority.

However Rohingya groups and rights activists say there has been no meaningful attempt to end their systemic persecution and what Amnesty International has called a system of apartheid.

Rohingya are still denied citizenship and freedom of movement in Myanmar. Tens of thousands have now been confined to squalid displacement camps for a decade.

The junta has imprisoned democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who defended Myanmar personally in 2019 hearings in The Hague. (Source: The Straits Times)

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