Sunday July 24, 2022
Myanmar in dock over action on Rohingya
Rohingya people flee to nearby states to save their lives from official atrocities.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague had said that Gambia had a right to bring a case against the government of Myanmar on the issue of genocide of Rohingya, a largely Muslim community in the Rakhine district.
It was Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and elected leader of the country, who had represented the Myanmar case earlier. Judge Joan Donoghue, who was presiding over the court said that Gambia was a member of the Genocide Convention of 1948, and therefore jurisdiction in the case and as a member of the convention was obliged to act to prevent genocide.
Myanmar had presented the argument that Gambia had no standing to make a case against Myanmar, on behalf of the Rohingya.
The ICJ has ruled by 15 votes to one that Gambiaâ€™s application over the breach of convention against genocide was admissible because it is not necessary that Gambiaâ€™s nationals were victims of the acts of oppression by Myanmar.
Gambia has a right to stand up for any individual of any nationality.
The court noted that though Bangladesh had faced the brunt of the influx of Rohingya refugees into its territory, it does not preclude Gambia or any other state, which is a party to the convention from raising the issue against Myanmar.
The courtâ€™s verdict is that Gambiaâ€™s application against Myanmar is admissible. Gambia had filed the case on November 11, 2019.
The proceedings of the case will take time, but it does establish an important precedent that it will not be possible for states and governments to say that other countries cannot interfere in the internal affairs of states.
Myanmar cannot invoke its sovereign status a State to say that it is not the business of other states to raise questions about Myanmarâ€™s treatment of the Rohingya.
Though it is a welcome decision in many, the decision of the ICJ could open the proverbial Pandoraâ€™s Box. Every state can file against every other state alleging genocide. But it will never be reduced to that frivolous level because members of the convention on genocide are not likely to raise issues with ulterior motives.
What is going to be a sensitive issue is the fact that the states, which have not brought the case against Myanmar for its treatment of the Rohingya might feel guilty that they have not raised the issue themselves.
Observers are sure to argue that the government of Syria should face charges, and that Palestinians, who face a dictatorial regime in the Israeli state, can also be brought to the ICJ.
It is indeed hypothetical because no case has been made against Syria or Israel so far, but it does open the door to human rights violations of the serious kind.
There is of course the case of Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Shireen Abu Akleh, who has been shot dead by the Israeli security forces, is likely to come up before the International Court of Criminal Justice.
The legal, political and diplomatic problems involved in bringing cases to the ICJ over violation of convention of genocide or human rights are too complicated and too big, and they would need to be sorted out.
But the Gambia case against Myanmar over the issue of Rohingya under the genocide convention is a crucial development in the arena of international law.
It is true that powerful countries would not allow themselves to be brought before the ICJ for their rights violations.
What is needed is serious debate on international legal system and how it could be made effective to protect human rights everywhere.