The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect welcomes the judgment delivered today, 22 July, by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the preliminary objections raised by Myanmar (Burma) in the case concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar). In rejecting Myanmar’s preliminary objections, the ICJ can proceed with the merits of the case and is one step closer to achieving justice for the Rohingya.
The preliminary objections raised by Myanmar were an overt attempt to block and delay justice and reconciliation for the Rohingya, as well as to escape accountability for genocide and crimes against humanity. The objections were also made in an effort to maintain the culture of impunity that has persisted in Myanmar for decades. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect appreciates that the ICJ agrees that Myanmar’s preliminary objections lacked any weight or merit.
Savita Pawnday, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said, “impunity for perpetrators like General Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders not only facilitated the perpetration of mass atrocity crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities but also enabled the 2021 coup and created a permissive environment for the ensuing violence and atrocities across Myanmar. The Global Centre looks forward to the next stages of the case.”
Justice and accountability are important to upholding the Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. Still, accountability processes on their own are not enough. It is important to note that Myanmar has failed to uphold the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ in January 2020 to protect the Rohingya from further violence, and the international community has never put sufficient pressure on Myanmar – both the former civilian-led government and the current junta – to ensure compliance with these measures. The estimated 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar continue to face systematic discrimination and are at high risk of atrocity crimes, as the military commits widespread and systematic human rights violations against civilians, particularly those from ethnic minority populations.
While the ICJ’s decision is a positive development, the road to much needed justice and reconciliation for the Rohingya remains a long one. Ms. Pawnday said, “As the case goes forward, it is essential that the ICJ centers the voices and perspectives of the Rohingya in its proceedings. States should urge compliance with the provisional measures. States can also aid in ensuring accountability by formally intervening in the case — particularly Canada and the Netherlands, who announced their intention to do so in 2020.”