UN court orders Myanmar to protect Rohingya

World | 23 Jan 2020 7:52 pm

In a legal victory for members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the United Nations’ top court today ordered Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya people.

The court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the International Court of Justice “is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable.”

In a unanimous decision, the court added that its order for so-called provisional measures intended to protect the Rohingya is binding “and creates international legal obligations” on Myanmar.

The court also ordered Myanmar to “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related” to allegations of genocidal acts.

Yasmin Ullah, a Ronhingya activist who lives in Vancouver and was in court for the decision, called it a historic ruling.

“Today, having the judges unanimously agree to the protection of Rohingya means so much to us because we’re now allowed to exist and it’s legally binding,” she told reporters on the steps of the court.

At the end of an hour-long sitting in the court’s wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice, judges also ordered Myanmar to report to them in four months on what measures the country has taken to comply with the order and then to report every six months as the case moves slowly through the world court.

Rogingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh welcomed the order.

“This is good news. We thank the court as it has reflected our hope for justice. The verdict proves that Myanmar has become a nation of torturers,” 39-year-old Abdul Jalil told The Associated Press by phone from Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar.

However, he expressed doubts that Myanmar would fully comply.

“Myanmar has become a notorious state. We do not have confidence in it,” Jalil said. “There is little chance that Myanmar will listen.”

Rights activists also welcomed the decision, which was even supported by a temporary judge appointed by Myanmar to be part of the 17-judge panel.

“The ICJ order to Myanmar to take concrete steps to prevent the genocide of the Rohingya is a landmark step to stop further atrocities against one of the world’s most persecuted people,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Concerned governments and U.N. bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward.”

The world court order for what it calls provisional measures came in a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations that accuses Myanmar of genocide in its crackdown on the Rohingya.

Judges did not rule Thursday on the substance of the case, which will be debated in legal arguments likely to last years. But their order to protect the Rohingya made clear they fear for ongoing attacks.

At public hearings last month, lawyers for Myanmar’s accusers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they call a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.-AP

 

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