Suspense over ICJ’s decision on Rohingyas’ persecution
The world stood with Aung San Suu Kyi when she fought against the military junta of Myanmar (former Burma) in a non-violent way. She suffered but never compromised. For years, she was under house arrest and was also imprisoned in between. She was seen as an icon and a true follower of Mahatma Gandhi. I still believe Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon but her recent ‘silence’ over alleged atrocities on the Rohingyas is unexpected.
As we know, Myanmar is a Buddhist country and Rohingya Muslims living in the Rakhine province of the nation are facing serious persecution. Hundreds of Rohingyas were killed and few lakh fled to Bangladesh during an Army crackdown in 2017 and they are living in camps outside Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh is facing a serious crisis following the illegal entry of Rohingyas. The country of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi considers Rohingyas as illegal immigrants and are denying them citizenship.
The stories of rapes and killings of Rohingyas came to the light again when the UN top court International Court of Justice (ICJ) heard the petition of Gambia, a small Muslim majority nation of West Africa, against the ‘genocide’ of Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar. Gambia alleged that Myanmar has violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of December 9, 1948 and asked the ICJ to take emergency measures to stop further genocides. Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told ICJ, “You tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.”
The public hearings were concluded on Thursday and the ICJ press release said, “The court’s decision on the request for the indication of provisional measures will be delivered at a public sitting, the date of which will be announced in due course.”
Thursday was a third and final day of hearing when Gambia in its presentation before ICJ said that Myanmar cannot be trusted to hold its own soldiers accountable for alleged atrocities against Rohingya community.
Myanmar requested the court to remove the case from the list and in the alternative, to reject the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Gambia.
Aung San Suu Kyi, first state Counsellor of Myanmar, a position akin to the PM, defended her nation in the ICJ against allegations of ‘genocide’. Till recently, she was known as a vocal voice against the brutality of Army. As she is a de facto leader of the country since 2016, she has no control over the Army. Even though her party New League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the 2015 general elections, she could not become the President. She was barred from becoming the President as her late husband was a British national and also their two children hold British nationality. This is a constitutional provision and so she was appointed as State Counsellor.
Paul Reichler, a US lawyer, speaking for Gambia in ICJ alleged that six of Myanmar’s top senior officers have been accused of genocide by a UN fact finding mission and recommended criminal prosecution. He further said Myanmar even did not deny most of the accusations of extreme violence made against its Army. The findings of the 2018 UN investigators report said the military carried out killings and mass rapes with ‘genocidal intent’ during the 2017 operation. Aung San Suu Kyi made a submission before the ICJ that Gambia has placed an ‘incomplete and misleading’ picture of the factual situation in the Rakhine province of Myanmar. She said that disproportionate force may have been used at times by the military but the fact is conflict is ‘complex and not easy to fathom’. On Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi warned that the case could ‘undermine reconciliation’. She further said Myanmar actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers. Her contention was if there had been violations of humanitarian law they did not rise to the level of genocide and were not covered by the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The issue of Rohingya Muslims is not confined to Myanmar only. It is affecting Bangladesh also as lakhs of them have illegally migrated. Even in India, the Rohingya issue is being raised regularly. The issue is also of persecution. They have been facing persecution for many years mainly because of their faith. The international community, in fact, expects Aung San Suu Kyi to take initiative and begin reconciliation process.