The Gambia has filed a case at the United Nations’ top court accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority.
Lawyers for The Gambia said in a statement on Monday that the case also asks the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately”.
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The Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Myanmar’s military unleashed a brutal campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to attacks by an armed group. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and burning of their homes.
The head of a UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring”.
The mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya, a majority-Muslim ethnic group that has long faced persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Myanmar’s UN ambassador Hau Do Suan last month called the UN fact-finding mission “one-sided” and based on “misleading information and secondary sources”. He said Myanmar’s government took accountability seriously and that perpetrators of all human rights violations “causing the large outflow of displaced persons to Bangladesh must be held accountable”.
Last year, Myanmar rejected a report by UN investigators that called for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide, saying the international community was making “false allegations”.
The case filed at the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, alleges that Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya includes “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, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part”.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubacarr Marie Tambadou said in a statement: “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 International Criminal Court’s prosecutor also asked judges at that court in July for permission to open a formal investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed against the long-persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar.
Fatou 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 global court, into Bangladesh, which is.
The International Criminal Court holds individuals responsible for crimes while the International Court of Justice settles disputes between nations. Both courts are based in The Hague.