By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canada on Monday lauded Gambia’s bid to bring Myanmar to court to answer genocide charges against its Rohingya minority.
“Canada welcomes Gambia’s submission to the International Court of Justice of an application to institute proceedings against the Government of Myanmar for alleged violations of the Genocide Convention,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.
Gambia said Monday it had filed the 46-page application on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 57 Muslim countries. If the court decides to pursue the case, it will be the first time it will look into genocide claims on its own rather than relying on testimony from other tribunals.
“This move will help advance accountability for the genocide, which includes acts of mass murder, systemic discrimination, hate speech and sexual and gender-based violence against the Rohingya, including violence that took place in August 2017, forcing over 740,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and triggering the creation of the largest refugee camp in the world,” Freeland said.
“Canada will work with other like-minded countries to end impunity for those accused of committing the gravest crimes under international law. Together with our partners, we will explore options to support Gambia in these efforts, with assistance from Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, the Honorable Bob Rae.
”Canada is committed to addressing the root causes of the crisis and ensuring that the Rohingya are fully and meaningfully engaged in the development of these solutions.
“Ensuring that the perpetrators of these atrocities are held to account is imperative to provide justice to the victims and survivors,” she added.
A persecuted people
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.