EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Gambia’s justice ministry announced on Monday that the government has filed a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice –ICJ- in The Hague, alleging that the Republic of the Union of Myanmar has violated its obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide for its genocidal actions against the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority that lives in Myanmar.
The ministry said genocide is a crime under international law, and all States have an obligation to prevent, to punish, and to not commit genocide. “Myanmar has failed in adhering to its obligations on all counts in its brutal treatment of the Rohingya, who have been subjected to wanton acts of violence and malicious degradation with the specific intent of State actors to destroy the Rohingya as a group.”
The Rohingya people are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group who follow Islam and reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar (previously known as Burma). There were an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis. Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, the Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law.
“The Gambia has stepped forward, on behalf of the 57 Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and with the mandate of the Organization, to hold Myanmar accountable for its genocidal crimes against the Rohingya,” the ministry said in a statement.
Gambia’s position is that its action asks the ICJ to adjudge and declare Myanmar to have violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention, to order Myanmar to cease and desist from its genocidal acts, to punish the perpetrators, and to provide reparations for the Rohingya victims. “The Gambia has also asked the ICJ to impose Provisional Measures, as a matter of extreme urgency, to protect the Rohingya against further harm during the pendency of this case by ordering Myanmar to stop all of its genocidal conduct immediately.”
The Rohingya people are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs. The legal conditions faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar have been widely compared to apartheid by many international academics, analysts and political figures, including Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid activist.
“The Gambia calls on the international community to support its legal effort, and to redouble all diplomatic and political efforts to cause Myanmar to stop, and never to repeat, its genocide against the Rohingya, and to assist in efforts to ensure justice and accountability for the crimes committed against them.”
The justice ministry said the Agent for The Gambia before the ICJ in this case, and head of its legal team, is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou.
It also stated that the country has retained the services of Foley Hoag LLP, an international law firm with many years of experience representing States before the ICJ, as its counsel, saying the country will also be represented by Professor Philippe Sands, of University College London, and Professor Payam Akhavan, of McGill University.