Genocide case against Myanmar to be heard at highest UN court

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02:10 PM, December 06, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:12 PM, December 06, 2019

Genocide case against Myanmar to be heard at highest UN court

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi talks to journalists during a press conference after she met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar September 3, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Thar Byaw.

Reuters, The Hague

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will head a team of lawyers to hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague next week to defend the country against accusations of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims.


The ICJ, also called the World Court, is the highest United Nations legal body, established in 1945 to deal with disputes between states. It should not be confused with the treaty-based International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, which handles war crimes cases against individuals.

The ICJ’s 15-judge panel has historically dealt with border disputes. Increasingly it also hears cases brought by states accusing others of breaking obligations under UN treaties.

This case was brought against Myanmar by the tiny West African nation of Gambia, acting with the support of the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), under the 1948 Genocide Convention. Both countries are signatories.

The convention obliges the 150 signatory countries not to commit genocide, but also to prevent and punish genocide. It defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.


The hearings at the ICJ from Dec.10-12 will not, at this stage, consider whether Myanmar is guilty of genocide. They will focus on a request for so-called provisional measures against Myanmar, a sort of preliminary injunction seeking to halt any ongoing abuse or violations. The measure is similar to a restraining order, but against a state rather than a person.

Judges at the ICJ often grant such measures, which generally consist of asking a state to refrain from any action that could aggravate the legal dispute.

ICJ cases typically take years to come to a conclusion, but a decision on provisional measures could be made within weeks. Its rulings are final and without appeal, but the court has no way of enforcing them. Still a ruling against Myanmar could hurt its international reputation and set legal precedent.


The court has handed down a final judgment in one other genocide case in the past, in which Bosnia accused neighbouring Serbia of masterminding genocide of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 war.

In 2007, the ICJ ruled that genocide was committed in Bosnia during the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. However, the judges said there was not enough evidence that the Serbian government was directly involved in the slaughter. Nonetheless the court found Serbia guilty of violating the convention by failing to prevent genocide.

It is hard to compare the Bosnia-Serbia case to Myanmar because the former was bolstered by a string of judgments at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslav, which had already determined the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide under international law.

Myanmar faces a series of legal contests globally accusing it of alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims during a military-led crackdown two years ago, but there are no legal precedents.

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Can Suu Kyi stand up to the lawsuit avalanche?

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  Can Suu Kyi stand up to the lawsuit avalanche?

By Larry Jagan,                                                                                                                                       Bangkok Post > Published at 12:02 am December 2nd, 2019

                           Photo: AFP – What’s Myanmar’s government doing to end the Rohingya crisis?

International pressure to rehabilitate the Rohingya and reform Rakhine is unlikely to dissipate

Myanmar’s top leaders — both military and civilian — have been shell-shocked by the avalanche of international legal cases they are now facing. In the space of days, three cases have been lodged in separate courts, all intended to make the Myanmar government and the country’s military leaders accountable for the horrendous events that unfolded in strife-torn western Rakhine state during military operations over the last three years.

But the key case — at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) brought by Gambia on behalf of the 57-nation member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — has finally propelled the Myanmar government to take decisive action. The State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, announced late last week that she will lead the country’s defense team, supported by a panel of prominent international lawyers to contest the case submitted by Gambia.

“The Myanmar government is taking this case very seriously,” the minister for international cooperation and deputy foreign minister, Kyaw Tin told the Bangkok Post in the sidelines of a major economic conference in the capital Naypitaw on Friday. In fact, as Myanmar is a signatory to this convention — which the democratic government of U Nu’s signed in 1956 — it cannot ignore the process.

This move on the part of the government came as a complete surprise to most diplomats and international observers, as most had expected Suu Kyi and her government to ignore this move at the ICJ, much in the same way as they have ignored the plethora of UN reports alleging forced evictions, the razing of Muslim villagers’ homes, rape and summary executions. But mounting a vigorous defense at the court in the Hague will not be enough to win the case nor sway international public opinion, according to many diplomats and legal experts.

“The State Counsellor, as foreign minister, will defend Myanmar’s interests,” he said. “Myanmar is looking forward to appearing in the court and using the opportunity to fully explain the country’s position.”

The minister, Kyaw Tin, went on to say that it is crucial for the international community to understand that Myanmar was only defending itself against terrorist attacks. This was not a premeditated campaign to expel the Muslims from Rakhine. “It was a matter of self-defense,” he stressed.

The major exodus of refugees started in October 2016, after an unexpected attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) on several border checkpoints left several security personnel dead. Some 70,000 Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh in the wake of a draconian military “clean up”, in which thousands of houses were razed and civilian villagers forced to flee. In August 2017, another Arsa attack — which left a score of policemen and border guards dead — saw a similar pattern of military operations and even more refugees fleeing and accusing the military of intimidation, rape, and summary executions.

Successive UN reports accused the military of conducting a campaign of ethnic cleansing with genocidal intent. The Myanmar government and the military have persistently denied these accusations.

Earlier this month the ICJ accepted a case filed by Gambia — a largely Muslim country in West Africa and a member of the OIC — intended to bring the Myanmar government to book for the army’s atrocities against the Muslim population in Rakhine. It asks the ICJ to investigate whether Myanmar’s government has violated the Geneva Convention, which prohibits genocide. In particular, it charges that Myanmar is responsible for “killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, [which] are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part”.

Gambia has also called for the court to impose precautionary measures to prevent further genocide. It requested that the ICJ issue an urgent temporary injunction ordering Myanmar to halt all actions that could aggravate or expand the existing situation. That could involve demands to stop further extrajudicial killings, rape, and levelling of the homes where the Rohingya once lived in Rakhine state.

“It is clear that Myanmar has no intention of ending these genocidal acts and continues to pursue the destruction of the group within its territory,” the lawsuit said. The government “is deliberately destroying evidence of its wrongdoings to cover up the crimes,” it added.

The first public hearing is set to open in the Hague on December 10, at which Suu Kyi will appear, leading a legal team under Attorney General Htun Htun Oo. Three international barristers are included as part of the panel. At the moment, the state counsellor’s office is working overtime to gather evidence, testimonies, and arguments to bring to the court, according to a government insider.

“This is the highest sanction the government can level against Myanmar, with both the civilian government and the army implicated,” a diplomat told the Bangkok Post, on condition of anonymity. As the case is likely to drag on for 10-15 years, it gives Myanmar time to get things right, they suggested. “They can soften the blow with mitigating circumstances, but they need to act now,” said a legal expert, who declined to be identified. “The government needs to tackle the root causes of the conflict in Rakhine, and initiate a number of administrative reforms.”

Pressure will mount on the army to straighten their act, and there is increasing pressure on the civilian authority to ensure the army acts professionally. In due course, the army will have to carry out internal reforms, giving a greater impetus to bring the military under direct civilian rule.

“Myanmar is in the dock, so it’s time to put ‘substance to the rhetoric’” said an Asian diplomat. “Start with giving unfettered access to Rakhine, especially for the UN and NGOs — both local and international.”

What is needed is an agreed, credible, consistent, and coordinated strategy to improve the situation on the ground. Creating conditions which are conducive for the refugees to return from Bangladesh in the future must also be prioritized.

While this is an essential starting point for any long-term development and reconciliation in Rakhine, some form of credible accountability and justice for the Rohingya’s suffering is also needed, whether through an international mechanism or a local process.

Larry Jagan is a specialist on Myanmar and a former BBC World Service News editor for the region. A version of this article was previously printed in the Bangkok Post. This is being reprinted under special arrangement.

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Rohingya Genocide Case Against Myanmar Based on ‘Compelling’ Evidence: Lawyer


Rohingya Genocide Case Against Myanmar Based on ‘Compelling’ Evidence: Lawyer


Paul Reichler, an attorney at Foley Hoag LLC in Washington, D.C., discusses the genocide case filed                against Myanmar by the law firm’s client Gambia, Nov. 21, 2019.   RFA video screenshot                             UPDATED at 10:43 A.M. ET on 2019-11-22

An attorney assisting Gambia with its lawsuit against Myanmar alleging state-sponsored genocide at the U.N.’s top court said Thursday that he is confident that the West African nation will win the case based on copious, strong evidence of army atrocities against the Muslim Rohingyas.

“The evidence is plentiful,” Paul Reichler, an attorney at Foley Hoag LLC in Washington, told RFA’s Myanmar Service. He spoke a day after the Myanmar government announced that State Counselor and Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi would lead a team in defending the country at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands.

“There are many, many fact-finding reports by U.N. missions, by special rapporteurs, by human rights organizations,” Reichler said. “There is satellite photography, and there are many, many statements by officials and army personnel from Myanmar which altogether show that the intention of the state of Myanmar has been to destroy the Rohingya as a group in whole or in part,” he said.

“And we’re very confident that at the end of the day the evidence will be so compelling that the court will agree with The Gambia,” he said.

Paul Reichler, Foley Hoag LLC 1 | Radio Free Asia (RFA) >

In the lawsuit filed 10 days ago, Muslim-majority Gambia accuses Myanmar of breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention for the brutal military-led crackdown on the Rohingya in 2017 that left thousands dead and drove more than 740,000 across the border into Bangladesh.

The West African country filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The first public hearings at the ICJ will be held on Dec. 10-12.

Myanmar has largely denied that its military was responsible for the violence in Rakhine state, which included indiscriminate killings, mass rape, torture, and village burnings, and has defended the crackdown as a legitimate counterinsurgency against a group of Muslim militants.

The government has also dismissed credible evidence in numerous reports and satellite imagery that points to the atrocities, and claimed that the Rohingya burned down their own communities and blamed soldiers for the destruction.

Myanmar’s powerful military and civilian-led government are together working with legal experts to take on the lawsuit, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday, quoting military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.

Separate cases pertaining to the persecution of the Rohingya have been filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and in an Argentine court, the latter of which names Aung San Suu Kyi and top military commanders deemed responsible for the atrocities.

Myanmar has refused to cooperate with the ICC because the country is not a party to the Rome Statute which created the international court. On Thursday, Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N.’s special envoy on Myanmar, welcomed the Southeast Asia country’s decision to defend itself before the ICJ.

Burgener ended a 10-day mission to Myanmar on Nov. 21, during which she met with government and military official, diplomats, think tanks, and U.N. agencies.

“She welcomed the government’s position on the case filed by The Gambia to the International Court of Justice that, as a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide since 1956, Myanmar would take its international obligations seriously and would defend itself in front of the ICJ,” said a statement issued by the U.N.’s Myanmar office.

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi participates in ASEAN-United Nations summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Nov. 3, 2019 Credit: Associated Press

State responsible for army actions

Some of Myanmar’s top rights attorneys meanwhile weighed in on Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to appear before the ICJ. “As foreign minister, it is reasonable that she will lead the defense team,” said Thein Than Oo, one of the founding members of the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network.

“As a leader of the country, Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi has consistently denied the accusations. This charge is not just for human rights violations. She will be defending the genocide accusation. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has consistently denied that charge. I think she will deny it in the court too. She has to.”

Kyee Myint, chairman of the Union Attorney and Legal Aid Association, noted that the state counselor’s team has very little time to prepare itself for the case.

“We’ve got a very short period for preparation,” he said. “It’s less than 20 days. They should give us between three and six months, so that we have enough time to prepare the defense.”

Kyee Myint also said that Aung San Suu Kyi should point out to the ICJ her limited authority over the military, as mandated in Myanmar’s constitution.

“During the defense at the court, she should demonstrate her limited authority over the military, showing them a copy of the 2008 constitution,” he said. “If she is willing to take the fall when the military is silent, that’s up to her.”

But Reichler said that would provide no protection for Aung San Suu Kyi. “The army is part of the state. The civilian government is part of the state,” he said. “The state is responsible for the behavior of agents, of its organs, of its entities, of its ministries and of its military forces,” he added.

“The idea that there are people in the government who oppose genocide … does not absolve the state of the responsibility that it has for operations of a different part of its government,” Reichler said.

“The state is responsible whether the civilians support that genocide or not. It is the state that is carrying it out, whether it is the civilians or the military,” he said.

Paul Reichler, Foley Hoag LLC 2 | Radio Free Asia (RFA)

Damage to country’s image

Representatives from Myanmar’s political parties defended the government.

Pyone Kathy Naing, a lawmaker from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said that the West has misunderstood the term “clearance operation,” referring to the action that Myanmar security forces took in Rohingya communities in Rakhine state in 2017 in response to deadly attacks by a Muslim militant group.

‘The term ‘clearance operation’ is misunderstood in the Western world,” she said. “The military’s clearance operations were to clear out the terrorists — not to drive out the [Muslims]. We need to clarify it.’

“For the lawsuit, we need to counter strategically with a highly expert legal team,” she added.

Soe Thein, an independent legislator and former minister of the President’s Office agreed, saying, “We need to fight back with an expert international legal teams — spending millions of dollars.”

Oo Hla Saw, a lower house lawmaker from the Arakan National Party (ANP), raised concern over the impact that the ICJ lawsuit would have on Myanmar.

“This lawsuit’s impact on our society will be huge, especially because our country’s image will be damaged whether we win or lose since we are accused of rights violations,” he said.

“The second thing is economic impact,” he said. “We will be isolated. We might be sanctioned by large western countries. Nobody can be sure, but the impact will be huge because Western countries and the OIC countries will be influencing these motives.”

“This will be a very big problem for us,” he added.

Reported by Ye Kaung Myint Maung, Khin Khin Ei, Nay Myo Htun, Thet Su Aung, Thiha Tun, and Phyu Phyu Khaing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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Argentina Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Aung San Suu Kyi Accountable For Atrocities Against Rohingya



Argentina Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Aung San Suu Kyi Accountable For Atrocities Against Rohingya


  Tun Khin (L), president the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, and Argentine human rights lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana (R) leave Argentine federal court in Buenos Aires after filing a lawsuit against Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and others for crimes against the Rohingya, Nov. 13, 2019. AFP

Argentina has become the latest member of the international community to pursue legal action against top Myanmar officials over the military-led crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, amid mounting global pressure that the government be held accountable for the extreme violence that left thousands dead and drove more than 740,000 across the border and into Bangladesh.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was named among several officials in a lawsuit submitted Wednesday in Argentina by Rohingya and South American human rights organizations for serious crimes, including genocide, against the minority group.

It is the first time that Aung San Suu Kyi has been legally targeted over the crackdown, which she and other officials have justified as a necessary countermeasure to deadly insurgent attacks by a Rohingya militant group in Rakhine state in 2017.

“This complaint seeks the criminal sanction of the perpetrators, accomplices and cover-ups of the genocide,” Tomas Ojea Quintana, an Argentine human rights lawyer and former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar who is assisting the Rohingya plaintiffs, told AFP.

“We are doing it through Argentina because they have no other possibility of filing the criminal complaint anywhere else,” he was quoted as saying.

The Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) and other groups filed the lawsuit in Argentina under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” a legal concept that allows national courts to prosecute individuals for serious crimes against international law, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and torture.

BROUK president Tun Khin told RFA that others named in the lawsuit are former president Thein Sein, former president Htin Kyaw, current president Win Myint, and top military brass deemed responsible for the atrocities, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Nickey Diamond, a Myanmar human rights specialist with Fortify Rights, said that Aung San Suu Kyi has been named in the lawsuit because she failed to speak out against the military’s actions against the Rohingya.

“Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi is looked upon internationally as the country’s leader, and because she was seen as covering up for the military, she has been dragged into this as an accomplice,” he told RFA.

“We know that she has no power over the military, as is mandated by the constitution, but she should have given ‘a warning’ to the military that they should not commit these rights violations,” he said. “She failed to do so, and that worsened the problem.”

‘A very positive step’

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the lawsuit — the third such international case to be filed against Myanmar officials — a “very positive step” and encouraged Aung San Suu Kyi to cooperate with the Argentine court to claim innocence if she is officially summoned instead of declining a trial.

“It’s a very positive step that Argentina is raising these issues because it will force the Myanmar government to respond in a substantive way to serious allegations against them and the security forces,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, in an email response to RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“Aung San Suu Kyi should agree to cooperate with lawful requests from Argentina since she claims that she has nothing to hide,” he added.

The legal petition seeks to persuade Argentina’s courts to exercise universal jurisdiction to prosecute everyone in Myanmar who may be criminally responsible for crimes designated as genocide and crimes against humanity, he said.

“The fact people are even talking about universal jurisdiction reflects the reality that Myanmar’s national government and military have totally failed to credibly investigate and address the atrocities committed against the Rohingya,” he said. “The big issue for Aung San Suu Kyi is whether she was involved in a cover-up of the rights abuses against the Rohingya or not.”

Myo Nyunt, spokesman of the ruling civilian-led National League for Democracy (NLD) party said the prosecution of civilian and military leaders by Argentina would violate Myanmar’s national sovereignty and that the country would not comply with the court.

“We’ve seen dishonesty in that campaign,” he said. “I view this as an attempt to garner international pressure to gain rights as an indigenous ethnic group for those who fled from conflicts in northern Rakhine state.”

“We will not comply with or be obliged by demands that violate the sovereignty of the nation,” he said, adding that the Myanmar government is conducting sufficient investigations and taking legal action on incidents involving Muslims in northern Rakhine.

On Monday, Gambia filed a separate lawsuit against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court in The Hague, the Netherlands, accusing the Southeast Asia nation of state-sponsored genocide for the crackdown on the Rohingya.

In a third legal action on Thursday, judges at the International Criminal Court approved a request from prosecutors to launch an investigation into widespread acts of violence during the crackdown to determine if they qualify as the crime against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and persecution of the Rohingya based on ethnicity and/or religion.

The run-down Jama mosque, a center of Islamic worship built in 1859 and permanently closed in 2012 following deadly clashes between Muslims and Buddhists, sits amid overgrown vegetation in Sittwe, capital of western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Sept. 7, 2016. Credit: AFP  

Shuttered mosques, madrassas

In a sign of long-lasting damage to persecuted Rohingya communities in Myanmar, a survey by a Yangon-based Muslim committee has determined that at least 900 Islamic mosques and madrassas were demolished or forced to shut down during sectarian violence with Buddhists in Rakhine state in 2012, and they have not been rebuilt or reopened.

The committee, comprising Muslims leaders and organizations from across the country, is pressing the government to reopen the buildings. They have been compiling the list of mosques and Muslim religious schools since September, and have sent appeals to President Win Myint and military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to reopen more than 60 of them.

“We have identified 900 of them in Rakhine state alone,” said committee spokesman Maung Myint. “The list includes more than 200 mosques, over 200 Arabic language schools, and 500 schools teaching basic education. All of them have been either shut down or destroyed.”

Records used to compile the report focus on 13 townships in Rakhine state where Muslims live — most of them located in Sittwe, Buthidaung, and Maungdaw townships — areas that were mainly affected between 2012 and 2017.

Rakhine state government spokesman Win Myint, no relation to the country’s president, said he did not have figures pertaining to mosques that have been shut down.

Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya community leader who lives in Sittwe, said that between 40 and 50 mosques there were destroyed during the 2012 communal riots. “Many religious schools had been burned down,” he said. “The mosques were destroyed. Some were totally flattened later by bulldozers.”

The riots left more than 200 people dead and displaced roughly 120,000 Rohingya who were placed in camps outside Sittwe to avoid further clashes between Rakhine Buddhist and Muslim communities.

Kyaw Hla Aung said displaced Rohingya have been forced to live in camps enclosed by barbed-wire since 2012 and are not allowed to travel without permission. The camps also lack mosques and formal Islamic schools, he said.

Aung San Win, a spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, said he was not aware of the list of mosques that have been shut down.

Naung Taw Lay, also known as Nay Win Aung, secretary of the Myanmar Nationalist Network, a nationalist group that has participated in anti-Muslim rallies, said he has no objection to the reopening of the mosques.

“As nationalists, we just want to prevent terrorism,” he told RFA. Human rights activist Thet Swe Win said he believes that the government will not allow the places of worship to reopen.

“The government has a responsibility to allow the reopening, but I question whether the authorities actually have the motivation to let them reopen,” he said. “I don’t think we can trust them. I don’t think they will let them reopen.”

Reported by Moe Myint, Nay Myo Htun, and Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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Muslim Nations Bring Genocide Suit Against Myanmar Over 2017 Expulsion of Rohingya


 Muslim Nations Bring Genocide Suit Against Myanmar Over 2017 Expulsion of Rohingya


Representatives from the Rohingya community and Gambia’s Justice Minister Aboubacarr Marie Tambadou (L) listen to testimony during a press conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, where the West African nation filed a case at the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims, Nov. 11, 2019. Associated Press

Gambia on Monday filed a lawsuit against Myanmar in the highest court of the United Nations, accusing the Southeast Asia nation of state-sponsored genocide for the brutal military-led crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017 that left thousands dead and drove more than 740,000 across the border into Bangladesh.

Myanmar has largely denied that its forces were responsible for widespread violence that included indiscriminate killings, mass rape, torture, and the burning of Rohingya villages in Rakhine state, saying its measures were a justified response to deadly attacks on police outposts by a militant Rohingya group.

Gambia, a predominantly Muslim African country, filed the case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a group of 57 Muslim countries.

The lawsuit alleges that Buddhist-majority Myanmar breached the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the U.N. in 1948, with the military-led crackdown targeting the Rohingya minority.

It also asks the ICJ to order Myanmar to cease and desist from all acts of genocide, to punish those responsible, including senior government officials and military officers, and to issue reparations to victims, according to a statement issued by Foley Hoag LLC, the international law firm assisting Gambia with the case.

“The Gambia is taking this action to seek justice and accountability for the genocide being committed by Myanmar against the Rohingya, and to uphold and strengthen the global norm against genocide that is binding upon all states,” the West African nation’s justice minister and attorney general, Aboubacarr Marie Tambadou, said in a statement, according to news agencies.

Gambia has also called for urgent provisional measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately” to prevent further harm to the Rohingya while the case is pending, Foley Hoag’s statement said. The court is expected to hold oral hearings on the request in December, it said.

Myanmar government officials have not yet issued a response, but Hau Do Suan, Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N., told RFA’s Myanmar Service Monday that Myanmar and Bangladesh should resolve the issue themselves.

“As far as we know, Gambia has been assigned to the task by the decision from the OIC ministerial meeting to prosecute Myanmar for the displaced Muslims,” he said. “In my opinion, the issue we have here is between Myanmar and Bangladesh. It has nothing to do with the OIC or Gambia.”

A bilateral issue

Hau Do Suan said he did not have any other comments to make since lawsuit was just submitted today.

“But the point is the ICJ is meant to settle disputes between member countries for issues like border disputes or legal disputes,” he said. “As far as I know, there has never been a single lawsuit on settling humanitarian issues. Now, since they have filed the lawsuit formally, we have to face the proceeding through legal means.”

“This is an issue to be resolved bilaterally between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he said. “It is obvious that they are trying to utilize international pressure instead of helping to resolve this humanitarian issue.”

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told the state-run news service BSS that officials welcomed the news. “This is good news that OIC is taking some responsibility,” he said.

Shahriar Alam, a junior minister at Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in Dhaka that the lawsuit was filed after the OIC appointed lawyers and created a committee.

“The committee discussed the issue and later, at a meeting of foreign ministers, a resolution was adopted to file a case,” Alam said. “It took a few days for preparation and appointment of lawyers.”

In March, the OIC unanimously adopted a resolution to pursue legal recourse through the ICJ, which settles disputes between nations, to seek accountability and justice for human rights violations committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Fatou Bensouda (L), top prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, sits in one of the body’s courtrooms at                     The Hague, the Netherlands, July 8, 2019. Credit: AFP

Rights groups welcome move

Rights groups said they were pleased by the latest action to hold Myanmar accountable for violations against the Rohingya. “We Rohingya welcome Gambia’s lawsuit against Myanmar,” Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), told RFA. “I think this lawsuit will be very effective since Myanmar is one of the signatories of the Genocide Convention.”

“Government-to-government lawsuits are more likely to proceed because only that kind of action will save the Rohingya from genocide,” he said. “Otherwise, it will keep going on for many years to come. We don’t know how long these atrocities will keep happening in the future since it is part of government policy.”

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) also welcomed the move, saying it could help stop further abuses against the Rohingya.

“The 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, HRW’s associate international justice director. “The court’s prompt adoption of provisional measures could help stop the worst ongoing abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar.”

Other NGOs supporting the initiative include No Peace Without Justice, the Association pour la Lutte Contre l’Impunité et pour la Justice Transitionnelle, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the Global Justice Center, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, Parliamentarians for Global Action, and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, HRW said.

Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights called on U.N. member states to support Gambia’s case against Myanmar for failing to prevent or punish genocide against the Rohingya. “Governments have condemned atrocities against Rohingya in Myanmar, but now it’s time to act,” said Matthew Smith, the group’s chief executive officer, in a printed statement.

“The Gambia’s leadership on this issue is monumental, and its government shouldn’t have to do it alone,” he said. “States can start by providing financial, diplomatic, and substantive support through public statements and submissions to the court on interpretations of the genocide convention.”

Signs of genocidal intent

An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in its final report issued in mid-September found signs of genocidal intent in the 2017 military campaign and warned that the roughly 600,000 Rohingya currently living in Myanmar face a “serious risk of genocide.”

Hau Do Suan derided the FFM’s findings in October, saying they were based on “one-sided views, unsubstantiated allegations, misleading information based on secondary sources, and narratives.”

He added that Myanmar takes the issue of accountability seriously and has repeatedly stated that the perpetrators of human right violations “causing the large outflow of displaced persons to Bangladesh must be held accountable.”

The move by Gambia follows a notice filed in June by Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), which tries individuals accused of committing crimes against humanity, about her intention to seek authorization to open a formal investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed against Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.

Bensouda said she wanted to investigate crimes of deportation, inhumane acts, and persecution allegedly committed as Rohingya were driven from Myanmar, which is not a member of the ICC, into Bangladesh, which is a member.

A month after Bensouda filed the notice, ICC prosecutor James Stewart and a court delegation conducted a six-day trip to southeast Bangladesh and the Rohingya refugee camps as part of preparations for the potential investigation.

Reported by Khin Maung Nyane and Soe San Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service, and by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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The Unwanted: A Haunting Look At The Rohingya Who Escaped Genocide

The Unwanted: A Haunting Look At The Rohingya Who Escaped Genocide

       A Haunting Look at the Rohingya Who Escaped from Burmese Genocide – Photo – Paula Bronstein – Getty Images

October 29, 2019, 8:23 p.m.

STRANDED, STATELESS, UNWANTED, they are citizens of no country. Myanmar and Bangladesh toss their fate back and forth, even as Myanmar’s army makes one thing clear to every Rohingya they aren’t raping, murdering, burning, or shooting: “Get out and don’t come back.” So they flee from their villages until they reach the border of Rakhine state, their ostensible home in Myanmar.

When they can, they board boats to escape, some are so rickety they capsize, and many can’t swim across the riverDrowned children and young women wash up on the shores of Bangladesh. Sometimes an entire family is gone to the sea. You can see the nighttime devastation of families gathering their dead, washing their bodies, wrapping them in shrouds for burial, here in Paula Bronstein’s photographs.

This article includes graphic images that some readers may find disturbing.

Rohingya wait in line for hours as an emergency food distribution is organized by the World Food Program and Save the Children. Rice, lentils, sugar, salt, and oil are given out, Oct. 7, Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Madia Khatun, a relative, grieves next to the bodies of five children, after an overcrowded boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsized overnight, killing about 12 people, Oct. 9, on Shah Porir Dwip Island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

     A man hits anxious Rohingya children with a cane during a humanitarian aid distribution while monsoon rains continue to batter the area causing more difficulties, Oct. 7, Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images


Most of the Rohingya amass in villages near Bangladesh waiting for the mysterious crossings. Photographers, fixers, aid agencies get whispers: the crossing is coming. Then suddenly, in the pre-dawn light, tens of thousands of Rohingya are on the move, wading through green, sodden, rice paddies, belongings cabbaged on the head, babies in arms, wounded on shoulders. “The faucet is turned on and then suddenly turned off,” says Bronstein, who photographed two of these monumental migrations, October 9 and October 16. Is there coordination between the Myanmar and Bangladeshi authorities? Is it a temporary solution? A permanent ethnic cleansing? Coordinated cleansing?

Laundry hangs on a line overlooking the sprawling refugee camp on Oct. 2, 2017 in Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar walk along a muddy rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The refugees then walk for miles inside Bangladesh. Some stop in abandoned villages, some make it to decades-old refugee camps, some are whacked with bamboo rods by the Bangladeshi border guards, ordered to stay in the fields with no idea of what’s going on, where they will end up, when it will end.

Why? Perhaps to get more money, Bronstein says.

“It was outrageously inhuman. They made it to where they’d get water and biscuits from WFP [the World Food Program] and the authorities said, ‘No we’re sorry you have to go back into the field, the rice paddy.’ They were crying, especially the children, ‘These horrible Bangladeshi border guards are threatening to beat us, and we don’t know what is going on.’ They kept them for three days in muddy fields and then processed them. It was atrocious. Why they did this, I can’t get a straight answer.”

Aneta Begum, 25, is treated for a head injury by staff member Jacqueline Murekezi at a Doctors Without Borders clinic on Oct. 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic health care services at their Kutupalong clinic since 2009. Due to the current crisis, the clinic has expanded its inpatient capacity, dealing with approximately 2,500 outpatient treatments and around 1,000 emergency room patients per week. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

A severely malnourished and premature baby, 15 days old, is treated in the pediatric-neonatal unit at the Doctors Without Borders Kutupalong clinic on Oct. 4, 2017 in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders has been providing comprehensive basic health care services at this clinic since 2009.Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

It rained while they were stranded. There was nowhere to sit or sleep. “And then the sun comes out and you get a rainbow,” Bronstein notes. “It’s beautiful, and people are in agony. Nature does funny things. There’s always beauty where people are suffering.”

Just down the road from the camps where tens of thousands of Rohingya languish, there is a beach resort where tourists take selfies, swim, and drink cocktails.

THE ROHINGYA CRISIS is not new. Aid groups have provided relief in Bangladeshi camps that are decades old. The Rohingya keep coming with each new wave of violence doled out to them by the Myanmar authorities. Reports are now emerging, from clinics and those who escaped, of soldiers and Buddhist extremists slaughtering the men and dragging girls as young as 9 years old into the forest to gang rape them. Rape is one of the tools of ethnic cleansing. Burn the villages. Slaughter the men. Rape the girls. Decimate a people.

Is there any political will or authoritative moral institution that will indict anyone for war crimes? Who would bring the charges? Russia? The Chinese? They have too much at stake in Burma economically, geographically. They’ve been involved in building a new Economic Zone with an industrial park, oil and gas terminals, and a railway line all in Rakhine state, where the Rohingya reside. As for the U.S., it has far diminished influence in Asia — not to mention the world —and no credibility left with regard to human rights or internationalism.

Sajida Begum, 18, sits in her makeshift tent, washing rice for dinner as smoke catches the late-afternoon light, Sept. 25, 2017 in Thainkhali camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

There are close to 2 million Rohingya in the world. Until recently, most lived in Myanmar for generations with their identity questioned, their history denied. Even the name Rohingya is a source of controversy. Is it an ethnic, political, or religious grouping? The best one can say is that it’s a complex identity rooted in fluctuating kingdoms, Muslim conquests, colonialism, nationalist movements, and ethnic cleansing.

Today about 4.3% of the Burmese population is Muslim. More than half are Rohingya. The 1982 citizenship law in Myanmar made it virtually impossible for Rohingya to qualify as citizens. (You had to either prove roots in Burma before 1823, when the British colonized the area, or you have to belong to one of the approved ethnic groups — which doesn’t include Rohingya). Successive Burmese governments simply call the Rohingya as Bengalis. So they have no rights to free movement, higher education, voting, or public office. They even have to get permission to marry. Since the 1970s, with each successive onslaught of violence, the Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, where they are also given no rights and often sent back.

The ethnic cleansing of the last two months is the most severe and systematic to date. Some 600,000 people have been forced out of Rakhine state by the Myanmar army and Buddhist extremists. And so today, some 1.3 million Rohingya exist in limbo without a place on earth to call “my country.”

Boats full of people continue to arrive along the shores of the Naf River as Rohingya come in the safety of darkness Sept. 30, on Shah Porir Dwip Island, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

People cross a bamboo bridge over a stream as the sun sets on Oct. 13, 2017 at the Kutuplaong refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Text by Elizabeth Rubin and photography by Paula Bronstein.

This article was first published The Intercept on 29 October  2017.

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It’s Time to Indict Aung San Suu Kyi for Genocide Against the Rohingya in Myanmar

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 It’s Time to Indict Aung San Suu Kyi for Genocide Against the Rohingya in Myanmar

Posted on August 24, 2019

Myanmar’s state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening ceremony of the Yangon                             Innovation Centre in Yangon on July 17, 2019. Photo: Thet Aung/AFP/Getty Images

By Mehdi HasanThe Intercept

ISN’T IT TIME   Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was indicted for war crimes and genocide at the International Criminal Court?

This Sunday marks two years since the Burmese military, the Tatmadaw, arrived in Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, to launch a renewed campaign of terror and violence against the country’s long-persecutedRohingya Muslim minority. Unspeakable crimes were committed by Burmese troops and vigilantes: Rohingya men hacked to death; children burned alive; women and girls raped and sexually assaulted in their hundreds and thousands. Scores of villages were pillaged and razed to the ground as more than 700,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes. One cautious estimate put the death toll at more than 10,000.

Two years on, as Rohingya refugees languish in squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh, it is difficult to overstate the sheer barbarism they have had to endure. The U.S. State Department has called it “ethnic cleansing,” with Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, describing the violence against the Rohingya “as bad as or worse than any other I have personally seen — including as one of the first U.S. officials to visit Darfur in 2004.” In August 2018, a United Nations fact-finding commission accused the Burmese military of genocide — a view endorsed by, among others, experts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and a unanimous vote by the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. The U.N.’s investigators even demanded Myanmar’s top military commanders be investigated and prosecuted for the “gravest” crimes against civilians under international law.

But what about prosecuting Suu Kyi, the one-time darling of the West and hero to liberals and conservatives alike? When will that be in the cards? For the past two years, the former prisoner of conscience-turned-de facto head of state has blindly defended her country’s lawless military while cynically downplaying the extent of their brutal crimes. A long-standing Buddhist nationalist, Suu Kyi has also fanned the flames of hatred against the besieged Muslim minority in her country, repeatedly engaging in brazenly Islamophobic behavior. On a recent visit to Hungary, of all places, she joined with far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban to bemoanthe “continuously growing Muslim populations” in their respective countries.

She might want to enjoy her trips abroad, and meetings with fellow racist leaders, while she can. In February 2018, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee — who was banned from the country for criticizing the Suu Kyi government — was asked by British broadcaster Channel 4 News whether a criminal tribunal might one day find Suu Kyi guilty of crimes against humanity and even genocide. “I’m afraid so,” Lee replied, also stating, “She can’t be not accountable. Complicity is also part of accountability.”

The Burmese leader’s dwindling band of international defenders includes, shockingly, her fellow 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They have joined with the Myanmar government to offer a range of bogus arguments as to why she cannot and should not be prosecuted  — or even be held responsible! — for the ongoing violence and repression in Myanmar.

First, they point out, Myanmar isn’t a signatory to the International Criminal Court, so the ICC has no jurisdiction. Yet in September 2018, in a stunning move, the ICC ruled that it could indeed prosecute Myanmar for crimes against the Rohingya people, accepting, as The Guardian reported, “a novel argument that even though the allegedly coercive acts that forced the Rohingya to flee took place in Myanmar, the crime would not have been completed until the refugees entered Bangladesh, which is a party to the Rome statute that governs the court.”

Second, say Suu Kyi defenders, as Myanmar’s first civilian leader after 49 years of military rule, she has no control over the armed forces. Therefore she cannot be held responsible for their brutal attacks on the Rohingya.

But this, says Maung Zarni, a fellow at the Genocide Documentation Center in Cambodia, “is a complete mischaracterization of Suu Kyi’s role” in those crimes. Zarni, a Burmese Buddhist who knows Suu Kyi personally and was once an ardent supporter of hers, points out that she controls four civilian ministries that have long been involved in repressing the Rohingya — the information, religious affairs, immigration, and foreign affairs ministries — not to mention her own high office of state counselor. The latter, as I noted in April 2017, “accused Rohingya women of fabricating stories of sexual violence and put the words ‘fake rape’ — in the form of a banner headline, no less — on its official website.”

It is fair, then, to damn Suu Kyi and her civilian officials for dismissing and denying the crimes against the Rohingya, thereby legitimizing and encouraging further violence by the security forces. Or, as the U.N. reportput it, contributing “to the commission of atrocity crimes.”

As Zarni says, “There is no absolution of her responsibility for the official statements, bills, measures … all designed to deprive Rohingyas of access to education, health service, due process, livelihoods opportunities, factual information about Rohingya history, legal status, past citizenship activities and citizenship.” Suu Kyi, he told me bluntly, plays a similar role to that of Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany, “perhaps less blatantly, but no less effectively.”

Suu Kyi has “without a doubt played an important role in the genocide,” agrees Azeem Ibrahim, author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide,” by providing the Burmese generals with “cover at every step.” It was her presence at the top of government, as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning face of Myanmar to the world, which “emboldened and encouraged the military to undertake the final solution,” Ibrahim told me.

Third, the Suu Kyi apologists argue, any action taken against The Lady, as she is known, would upset the delicate balance of power inside of Myanmar and risk handing back power to the generals, maybe in the form of a military coup. McConnell calls Suu Kyi “the best hope for democratic reform in Burma,” while Ramos and others worry about risking a “fragile political transition.” However, as Ibrahim points out, this argument is “patently false.” The reality, he explains, “is that the military is now in the perfect situation: they have power without accountability. They have [Suu Kyi] taking all the criticism whilst they can get on with the genocide … and at the same time enrich themselves dramatically. Why would they want to upset that perfect set-up and return to power, inviting international sanctions and once again becoming a pariah state?”

Zarni is equally scathing. “This post-military Burma under Suu Kyi’s presumed enlightened rule is a complete fantasy that comes from self-interested diplomats and foreign governments,” he says.

So when will these foreign governments, which claim to care about human rights and make pious declarations of “never again,” take action to tackle the perpetrators of a modern-day genocide in Myanmar? There have been the mildest of travel bans imposed on a handful of Burmese generals but nothing whatsoever imposed against the state counselor herself. Suu Kyi has been stripped of various awards and freedoms from the likes of Amnesty International and the cities of OxfordEdinburgh, and Paris, but do such minor humiliations really amount to justice for the Rohingya victims of “murder, rape, torture, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement”?

To be clear: The refusal to sanction Suu Kyi, or consider prosecuting Myanmar’s de facto leader for her role in the Rohingya genocide, two years later, is not just an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees waiting for some sort of accountability in Bangladesh and beyond. It endangers Myanmar’s other minorities, such as the Kachin Christians in the north, who have also been on the receiving end of Tatmadaw violence and terror in recent years.

As Ibrahim warns: “If you allow one genocide to go unpunished, you are opening the door to many others.”

Source: IwAR3PIRjC4ehBO653YTmRQ-e6FwKYXTpOZJTvld-aMI3Jl2TznA9r7SZrIhY

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