THE HAGUE: The Gambia, a small mainly Muslim West African state filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice against Myanmar for the country’s atrocities against the Rohingya population.
The Gambia’s case against Myanmar‘s “ongoing genocidal actions” against the Rohingya triggers a judicial process before the world’s highest court and could be a significant turning point.
The Gambian gambit
Gambian filed a complaint with the full support of the 57-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over the crisis.
In the ICJ lawsuit being led by Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Gambia Abubacarr M Tambadou, The Gambia alleges Myanmar breached the 1948 UN Genocide Convention with its bloody 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims.
“It’s inspiring” that The Gambia — a half a world away from Myanmar filing the case to get justice for Rohingyas, who are an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar.
Hundreds of refugees gathered at one of the camps in Bangladesh on Tuesday morning, chanting “Gambia, Gambia” and raising their fists.
Prayers and slogans were chanted for Gambia for filing the case against Myanmar.
Videos of survivors of the genocide demanding justice is also being widely shared on social media.
With the internet is back in the camp, Rohingya refugees including children watch the hearing of ICJ in the genocide case against Myanmar.
A group of Rohingyas also gathered around a phone screen trying to watch what Myanmar has to say about the genocide accusation. Some even climb to the top a hill to get a stronger signal to follow the case.
Rohingya for decades have faced persecution and pogroms in Myanmar, which refuses to recognise them as citizens and falsely labels them “Bengali” illegal immigrants.
They were concentrated in Rakhine state, the epicentre of a brutal Myanmar army offensive in August 2017.
More than 740,000 Rohingya fled into neighbouring Bangladesh, bringing with them accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson — violence that UN investigators have branded as genocide.
UN investigators have concluded that the 2017 violence amounted to genocide, with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimating that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown alone.
Suu Kyi- from icon to pariah
From democracy champion to defending Myanmar against genocide charges, the shock decision by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to face the UN’s top court risks further damaging her image overseas and deepening the siege mentality at home.
The Nobel Peace laureate has kept silent over the plight of the minority and defended the same generals who once kept her under house arrest for 15 years.
She garnered support in a country where the Rohingya have little sympathy and are widely regarded as illegal immigrants.
Yet overseas, particularly in the West and in Muslim countries, Suu Kyi’s reputation lies in tatters with multiple awards and even an honorary citizenship revoked.
Myanmar meanwhile faces a number of legal challenges over the fate of the Rohingya, including a probe by the International Criminal Court — a separate war crimes tribunal in The Hague — and a lawsuit in Argentina personally mentioning Suu Kyi.