MYANMAR must “take all measures within its power” to prevent crimes of genocide against the Rohingya people, the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has ruled.
In a landmark and unanimous decision concerning allegations brought by the Gambia, the court ordered the government of Aung San Suu Kyi to respect the requirements of the 1948 genocide convention.
The ruling on Thursday of last week states: “Myanmar shall immediately, in pursuance of its undertaking in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 9 December 1948, take all measures within its power to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide. . . against [any] member of the Rohingya group.”
This includes extrajudicial killings or physical abuse; rape or other forms of sexual violence; burning of homes or villages; destruction of lands and livestock; and the deprivation of the Rohingya people of food and other necessities of life.
Giving evidence last month, Ms Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, told 17 international judges that the allegations presented an “incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation” in Rakhine State (News, 13 December).
In 2016, a military operation was launched against the Rohingya people there, who were forced from their homes in the face of mass atrocities. Almost one million people are still refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh. A UN investigation described the operation as “brutal”, and warned that the state was failing to prevent genocide.
In its 26-page ruling, the ICJ specifically instructs the government to “ensure that any military, paramilitary, or irregular armed units . . . do not commit any act of genocide, of conspiracy to commit genocide, or direct and public incitement to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide, against the Rohingya group”.
Neither Myanmar nor the Gambia should “aggravate or extend” the existing dispute and must report back to the court in four months’ time, it states.
The Justice Minister for the Gambia, Abubacarr Tambadou, who brought the case to The Hague, told the BBC: “This represents a triumph of international law and international justice. And it is the international community — as represented by the ICJ — saying in the strongest of terms that genocide will not be accepted under any circumstances by any perpetrators.”