EYEAFRICA TV: Hague, Netherlands: Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said Gambia’s case before the International Criminal Justice (ICJ) alleging that the Myanmar military’s atrocities in Rakhine State against Rohingya Muslims violate the Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide are incomplete and misleading picture of the situation in Rakhine state.
Presenting her country’s position on the second day of genocide hearings in The Hague, Netherlands on Wednesday, Kyi said the situation in Rakhine is complex and not easy to fathom but one thing that surely touches everyone is the suffering of many people whose lives have been torn apart as a result of the armed conflict in 2017.
On November 11, Gambia, with the backing of the 57 members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, filed a case with the court alleging that the Myanmar military’s atrocities in Rakhine State against Rohingya Muslims violate the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. On November 20, Myanmar recognized being bound by the ICJ Statute and announced that its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, would lead the delegation to “defend the national interest of Myanmar.”
The Gambia is represented at the hearing of the Hague-based ICJ by its Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr M Tambedou and his legal team.
“Regrettably, Gambia placed an incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation in Rakhine state. The troubles of Rakhine state dates back in the past centuries and has been particularly severe over the past few years,” Kyi said.
She said currently, an internal armed conflict is going on there between the Arakan army and organised Buddhist armed group with more than 5000 fighters and the regular Myanmar defense services but said none of the speakers have mentioned that on the first day of the hearing on Tuesday.
More than 730,000 Rohingya, most of them Muslims, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which UN investigators said was carried out with “genocidal intent.”
Myanmar has repeatedly justified the crackdown on the Rohingya as necessary to stamp out “terrorism”. It also insists its own committees are adequate to investigate allegations of abuse.
In 2018, the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar concluded that “the actions of those who orchestrated the attacks on the Rohingya read as a veritable check-list” on how to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. The mission concluded in 2019 that “the State of Myanmar breached its obligation not to commit genocide under the Genocide Convention.”
But Kyi said on 9 October 2016, approximately 400 fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army made simultaneous attacks on three police stations near the border with Bangladesh. “As part of the overall effort of the Myanmar government to provide justice, court Marshal found that ten Muslim men have been summarily executed in Indian village.”
The Nobel Peace laureate Kyi said although the focus at the ICJ is on the members of the military, she can assure that appropriate measures will also be taken against civilian offenders, saying there will be no tolerance of human right violations in Rakhine or elsewhere in Myanmar.
She said some of the UN human right mandates relied upon the application presented by The Gambia cannot be accounted for Myanmar’s justice system. “This did not only contradict article 20 (b) of the constitution of Myanmar. The emerging system of international criminal justice rests in the system of complementarity.”
Kyi said no stone should be left unturned to meet international domestic justice and it will not be helpful for the international legal order if the impression takes hold that only the rich resource can conduct adequate domestic investigation and prosecutions.
The case will be the first international legal attempt to bring Myanmar to justice over the Rohingya crisis, and is a rare example of a country suing another over an issue to which it is not directly a party. Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which not only prohibits states from committing genocide but also compels all signatory states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
Kyi said The Gambia will understand this challenges with which they too are confronted. “The applicant has brought a case based on the genocide convention. We are dealing with an internal armed conflict, started by coordinated and comprehensive attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army to which Myanmar’s defense services responded.”