ICJ has decided to hold a full hearing on whether the genocide took place there or not, which has put a pressure on Myanmar in the international arena. The African country, The Gambia, went to the international court seeking an interim order to protect Rohingya communities from the risk of genocide. A hearing on the petition was held in The Hague of the Netherlands last December.
After issuing an interim order, the court has decided to hold the hearing on whether crimes of genocide took place or not. The Gambia has been asked to submit the full petition of the genocide case by 23 October. Myanmar has to answer by July 2021.
Besides, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is separately investigating crimes against humanity charges against Myanmar.
The ICJ issued an order on 23 January to refrain Myanmar from violating the UN Genocide Convention in a bid to protect Rohingya communities, and to collect all evidence of genocide.
The ICJ set 22 May for Myanmar to submit reports to the court as to what the country has done in compliance of its order. There are also orders to appraise the court of the progress every six months. Myanmar has submitted its first report in line with the court order. Myanmar denied the allegation of genocide during the hearing of ICJ. The Buddhist majority country claimed that there was no situation of issuing an interim order, the country has taken some steps as per the instruction of the court.
Neither the ICJ nor Myanmar nor The Gambia has published the content of the report. The proceedings of the JCJ remained suspended for several months due to the COVID-19 and it is now functioning on a limited scale.
One and half months ahead of submitting its report to the ICJ, the Myanmar government issued orders on 8 April to abide by UN Genocide Convention and to collect all evidence of atrocities committed in the Rakhine state.
Myanmar’s ruling party National League for Democracy (LDA) at that time informally said the country’s top civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi told the court that some incidents of violating human rights may have occurred and the LDA government will not ignore these.
In a presidential order, Myanmar instructed its ministers, the state government, local administration, army and civil security forces officials not violate the rules 2 and 3 of UN Genocide Convention. It was also warned that action would be taken against those who would be responsible for destroying evidence of human rights violations. Instructions were also given from the presidential office against any attempt to commit crimes or hatch conspiracies like violating the Genocide Convention.
Free Rohingya Coalition organisers, however, commented that there is no credibility of these statements. They said the issuance of these instructions of the army and the LDA government is nothing but a strategy to face cases at the international courts. In fact there is no progress in the situation. There have been reports in recent months about the tough policy of Myanmar security forces in the Rakhine state.
Hope had been generated that Rohingyas would be able to participate in the parliament election in November, but that is not happening. Rohingya leader Kyaw Min as candidate of the Democracy and Human Rights Party submitted his nomination, but that was cancelled on 18 August. Although Kyaw Min was elected MP in 1990, the election commission cancelled his nomination this time like in 2015. The Human Rights Watch said his nomination was cancelled for failure to submit proof of citizenship of his parents.
Attempts failed at least three times to adopt proposals in the UN Security Council to condemn Myanmar’s army operation against Rohingya in the diplomatic arena, to take any step against Myanmar and to repatriate Rohingyas. The main cause of this is opposition from China and Russia. Alongside China and Russia, India and many countries of Southeast Asia did not vote in favour of Bangladesh. Against this disappointing backdrop in the diplomatic arena, the international court is the last resort for the Rohingya.
Gambia's attorney general and justice minister Abu Bakar Mari Tambadu, who went to the international court, said the ICJ interim order is a small step in the path of stopping repression and deprivation of Rohingyas for long.
He said this verdict will not change the life of Rohingyas in a day. However, it is a beginning of a process. The wait for receiving justice will be prolonged. It takes long time for the disposal of different cases at ICJ.
Kamal Ahmed is a senior journalist. This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam