Gambia, one of the smallest countries on the African continent, has filed a lawsuit at the United Nations’ top court accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslims. According to reports by Al Jazeera, “More than 730 000 Rohingya, most of them Muslims, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which UN investigators said was carried out with ‘genocidal intent’,” and now Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will head a delegation to argue against the filed case.
“It’s rare that we see good news on the Rohingya but last week was a wonderful week because of the case filed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by Gambia and the International Criminal Court gave a report back that the prosecutor agrees they can continue with the investigation,” said Advocate Shabnam Mayet, co-founder and member of Protect the Rohingya.
“We’ve got 57 Islamic states hopefully supporting Gambia because they’re bringing the case on behalf of the OIC.”
Gambia lodged its lawsuit after gaining the support of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC has 57 member states.
The fact that the case is being pursued on both the ICJ and ICC platforms is significant. While the ICC’s official process after a crime occurs sees that “the office of the prosecutor must determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims,” the ICJ’s court “may entertain two types of cases: legal disputes between States submitted to it by them and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies.”
Mayet added that while the recent action taken by Gambia and the OIC is wonderful and brings renewed hope for justice, it’s not the first time the African country has shown solidarity with the Rohingya – a concept which is to a large extent lacking in the Muslim world.
“Its not the first time Gambia has spoken about the Rohingya – in 2016 Gambia said that the Rohingya were welcome to come and live in their country.”
Despite several issues relating to ICC jurisdiction in the alleged Myanmar-Rohingya genocide, it seems that the case is now moving forward and that jurisdiction has been found thanks to some creative thinking by the ICC.
Reports by Al Jazeera indicate that the Buddhist-majority country has repeatedly attempted to legitimise and justify the apparent persecution of the Rohingya as necessary to stamp out what they call fighters. The country has also insisted that its own committees are adequately and appropriately equipped and structured to investigate any and all allegations of abuse.
Despite this, however, Mayet argues that Myanmar has shown a lack of will to address the situation in a just manner.
“Genocide is literally unfolding in front of our eyes,” said Mayet.