ICJ orders Burma to take “all measures within its power” to protect Rohingya from genocide

28 January 2020

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, welcomed the Order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Burma must take “all measures within its power” to protect members of the Rohingya ethnic minority group from all future acts that may amount to genocide under the provisions of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Order continued to state that Burma’s military, as well as any irregular armed forces which may be “subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any such acts, or of conspiracy  to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, of attempt to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide.”

The proceeding that started in November 2019 and was initiated by the Republic of Gambia, is the first-ever against a sovereign state accused of genocide.

Many Rohingya women claimed they were raped during the last military crackdown (AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to taking measures to prevent acts of genocide, the Burmese government and forces must preserve all evidence of genocidal acts and report on their compliance with these provisional measures.

“Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are still under the threat of genocide. Over a million languish in refugee camps far from home. These measures recognize the tremendous urgency of the situation for survivors of sexual violence and other genocidal crimes. It’s now time for the international community, including the Security Council, to act to ensure compliance.” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Centre.

In response to the ruling, the head of Oxfam’s Humanitarian Campaigns, Fionna Smyth, “This ruling is an important step towards justice and accountability for the Rohingya people. We urge Myanmar to implement these measures immediately and call on all nations to support this independent judicial process…As a matter of urgency, the Myanmar government should grant Rohingya people full citizenship, freedom of movement and basic human rights. It should also give investigators, humanitarian agencies and the media full access to central and northern Rakhine…More than 100 civil society organizations across Myanmar have voiced their support for this case and other ongoing accountability processes. We are happy that their voices have been heard.”

Although this a significant and positive step towards some sort of justice for the Rohingya in Rakhine State, a formal ruling on whether Burma is guilty of committing genocide is expected to be years away.

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