Myanmar waits on emergency measures and final ruling in ICJ ‘genocide’ case
A decision on the emergency measures sought by Gambia in their “genocide” case against Myanmar could take months, while a final ruling if the ICJ decides to take on the full case could take years.
All eyes were focused on the proceedings December 10-12 this week as Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her team responded to allegations of genocide made by Gambia against the actions of the Myanmar government and military in Rakhine State in 2016-17.
Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou pushed the court to impose emergency measures to prevent further abuse of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, saying there was a “serious and imminent risk of genocide recurring” and that “the lives of these human beings are at risk.”
Gambia, a majority Muslim state, brought the case on behalf of members of 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi told the court in her opening statement on Wednesday that there was no proof of “genocidal intent” and said the army operation was in response to attacks by Rohingya terrorists.
Suu Kyi, in a short presentation on day three of the hearing, urged the UN judges to throw out a genocide case against Myanmar, warning it risked reigniting the crisis. She said that if abuses have taken place, there are local judicial options in place to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes.
Bringing charges of genocide has historically been a troubled process in the United Nations judicial system.
The case against Myanmar has been polarizing both in Myanmar and internationally, with critics claiming the democracy icon has fallen from grace.
However, ahead of an election year in Myanmar, the State Counsellor’s personal presence in the ICJ court has been viewed by many Myanmar supporters as positive, standing up for the reputation of Myanmar.
The ICJ hearing in the Hague in the Netherlands saw small groups of people rallying in support and against the Myanmar State Counsellor outside the court room.
A decision by the ICJ will take time and the court cannot enforce the “provisional measures” proposed by Gambia. However, experts suggest an ICJ ruling could encourage the UN Security Council and individual states to engage Myanmar on the issue of the Rohingya’s safe return home to Rakhine State.
The Myanmar government claims they are in the process of encouraging refugee return.
According to media reports, the attention the case has drawn will make it harder for China, a key supporter of Myanmar, to dismiss the abuses and continue to block stronger statements and further actions by the Security Council.
What is clear is that condemnation at the UN Security Council level could not only bring further targeted sanctions on top military officials and military-owned enterprises in Myanmar, but it would also make businesses wary of investing in this relatively new market, according to a media report.
Short of Security Council action, the global scrutiny could also galvanize individual countries to impose their own sanctions. In concrete terms, this heightened disrepute worldwide could damage Myanmar’s economic attractiveness.
Although the ICJ probe will take time to come up with a ruling, the process has the potential to ratchet up international pressure on Myanmar.