UPDATES WITH RESPONSE FROM BANGLADESH
By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - Gambia filed a genocide lawsuit at the UN’s highest court over Myanmar’s treatment of its minority Rohingya Muslim community, said an international rights group on Monday.
In a statement from The Hague, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Gambia filed the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the Genocide Convention.
“It will bring the first judicial scrutiny of Myanmar’s campaign of murder, rape, arson, and other atrocities against Rohingya Muslims,” the statement said.
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.
Under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, if convicted, Myanmar may face punishment including sanctions.
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
“Gambia’s legal action triggers a judicial process before the world’s highest court that could determine that Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya violate the Genocide Convention,” said Param-Preet Singh, a HRW official.
“The court’s prompt adoption of provisional measures could help stop the worst ongoing abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” Singh added.
A total of 10 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the HRW, have extended their support to initiative led by Gambia to bring Myanmar to world’s top court of justice.
“In its first Genocide Convention case, the ICJ imposed provisional measures against Serbia in 1993 and eventually found that Serbia had violated its duty to prevent and punish genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” the statement recalled.
Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Turkey, and France have asserted that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya, the rights body said.
Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, who also serves as attorney general of the West African country, met with representatives of the NGOs in The Hague to discuss the case which the HRW said was welcomed by several representatives of the Rohingya community.
- Bangladesh welcomes Gambia’s move
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen praised Gambia for its move to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Myanmar atrocity against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.
“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states have taken a stand against the crimes. Gambia has proceeded the lawsuit on behalf of the OIC and we appreciate it,” Momen told Anadolu Agency.
“They [Myanmar] must have some accountability [for crimes against Rohingya]. We do not want any recurrence of such crimes,” he said.
“Myanmar has already punished some criminals who have committed crimes against humanity in Rakhine but it was not very comprehensive. I think this time Myanmar should realize their accountability [to ensure justice],” Momen added.
- Persecuted people
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.
*Md. Kamruzzaman from Bangladesh contributed to this report