Judges at the UN’s top court dismiss objections to a case alleging Myanmar is responsible for genocide against the Rohingya minority.
Judges at the United Nations’ highest court have dismissed preliminary objections by Myanmar to a case alleging the Southeast Asian nation is responsible for genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority.
The decision on Friday clears the way for the highly charged case, brought by The Gambia, to go ahead at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in full, a process that could take years.
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Myanmar, now ruled by the military, had argued that The Gambia, which brought the suit, had no standing to do so at the ICJ.
But presiding Judge Joan Donoghue said the 13 judge panel found that all members of the 1948 Genocide Convention can and are obliged to act to prevent genocide, and the court has jurisdiction in the case.
“Gambia, as a state party to the Genocide convention, has standing,” she said, reading a summary of the ruling. The court will now proceed to hearing the merits of the case, a process that will take years.
While the court’s decisions are binding and countries generally follow them, it has no way of enforcing them.
In a 2020 provisional decision, it ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya from genocide, a legal victory that established their right under international law as a protected minority.
The South East Asian nation was then represented by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was deposed as civilian leader by the current military regime which seized power in 2021.
‘Speed up justice’
A small group of pro-Rohingya protesters gathered outside the court’s headquarters, the Peace Palace, before the decision with a banner reading: “Speed up delivering justice to Rohingya. The genocide survivors can’t wait for generations.”
One protester stamped on a large photograph of Myanmar’s military government leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in 2017 in the aftermath of an attack by a Rohingya armed group. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled into neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of Rohingya homes.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared in March that the Myanmar military’s violence against the Rohingya amounted to genocide.
The ICJ rules on disputes between states and is not linked to the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals accountable for atrocities. Prosecutors at the ICC are investigating alleged crimes committed against the Rohingya.