Essa Faal to lead the prosecution of Myanmar military generals, speaks to TAT on his World Court appointment

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Essa Faal

Top Gambian International Criminal Attorney and former lead counsel of the Truth Commission has been appointed by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, to spearhead the investigations and prosecution of Myanmar’s government security agencies accused of committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. 

In November 2019, Gambia – with the backing of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – filed a case (The Gambia v. Myanmar) before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging that Myanmar’s atrocities against the ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State violated various provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention). 

The Gambia, which ratified the Genocide Convention in 1978, brought the case under Article 9 of the Convention, which allows for disputes between parties “relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide” and related acts to be submitted to the ICJ.

The Gambia’s application alleges that Myanmar’s military and other security forces perpetrated genocide by systemically destroying—through mass murder, incarceration, rape, and other kinds of sexual violence and abuse—villages of the Rohingya in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.

The Gambia asked the Court to grant protective measures to be taken by Myanmar in favor of the Rohingya.

Following this event, the then Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Madam Fatou Bensouda, applied to the pre-trial chamber of the ICC for authorization to conduct investigations into the crimes committed by the government and security agencies of Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. The request has since been granted, and investigations have commenced.

Reacting to his appointment to lead the investigations, Essa Faal told Alkamba Times: “I have the honor of being appointed to lead the investigations and prosecution under the direction and supervision of the Deputy Prosecutor. This is thus a continuation of efforts to raise the plight of the persecuted Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in the international community. More significantly, it commences criminal accountability for Justice for the Rohingya people.” 

The appointment of a Gambian lawyer to lead the investigation and prosecution of this case further solidifies the Gambia’s standing as a major advocate for international human rights law worldwide.

“On a personal note, this case allows me to contribute to protecting persecuted minorities because of their faith – Islam, which most Gambians and I share. In addition, it is an opportunity to stand for the broader principle of freedom of religion, association, and worship, which are fundamental to the pursuit of world peace,’ the Top lawyer said while seeking the prayers of the entire Muslim ummah, including his country, the Gambia. 

Who is Essa Faal? 

Essa Faal was the lead Counsel of The TRRC, who began his legal career as a state counsel at the Ministry of Justice in 1994. He counseled the Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Activities of Public Corporations set up by the Jammeh administration. In 1997, Faal was appointed as first secretary and later counselor for legal affairs at The Gambia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN), based in New York, United States. 

In 2000, Faal was appointed as a judicial affairs officer by the UN, who deployed him to the UN’s Transitional Administration in East Timor. In this capacity, he contributed to re-establishing the country’s justice system. In 2002, he was appointed Deputy General Prosecutor for Serious Crimes and was later promoted to Chief of Prosecutions.

In 2005 Faal joined the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) in Rome, Italy. He was responsible for designing and directing the implementation of justice sector reform programs in developing countries. In 2006, he was appointed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to lead the investigations into the Darfur genocide, in which 300,000 had allegedly been killed. 

The investigation led to the indictment of several senior members of the Sudanese government for genocide and crimes against humanity. Faal was later appointed senior trial lawyer and lead prosecuting counsel for the Darfur cases.

Between 2011 and 2016, Faal served as co-lead defense counsel for several cases in the ICC relating to Kenya, Liberia, Libya, and the Philippines. He has defended Mohammed Hussein Ali, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Francis Muthaura. He has also served as counsel for Charles Taylor, who he has represented pro bono, and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. In 2018, he was appointed as the prosecutor for the Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC)

About ICJ 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.

The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).

The Court’s role is to settle, per international law, legal disputes submitted by States and give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. A Registry, its administrative organ, assists it. Its official languages are English and French.

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