January 23, 2020

International Court of Justice Orders Myanmar to Prevent Further Acts of Genocide

Posted by Yee Htun

Today is a momentous day for many of us who have longed for justice in Myanmar. The International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) unanimously imposed provisional measures on Myanmar asking that it take “all measures within its power to prevent further acts of genocide against the Rohingya and preserve all evidence related to the allegations” of genocide.

The Gambia first brought the ICJ case against Myanmar in November 2019. They are seeking to prove that Myanmar is carrying out an ongoing genocide against the Rohingya. Both states addressed the ICJ in early December with regards to the provisional measures. As a result of today’s order, Myanmar is obligated to submit a report to the Court on all measures it has taken within four months and thereafter every six months, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.

For the Myanmar military, which has operated for decades with impunity while persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, this degree of scrutiny is a first. Even though the road ahead for both this ICJ case and the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) case around deportation will be a long journey, today’s decision offers a glimmer of hope for the Rohingya.

I, along with three students in the International Human Rights Clinic—Disha Chaudhari LLM ‘20, Lucy Chen JD ’21, and Emily Ray JD ‘21 —spent this Winter Term in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, working alongside our Rohingya refugee partners. We conducted a series of workshops with women survivors, youth leaders, and activists in the camps, addressing the issues of international accountability, women’s rights, and best practices to ensure voluntary, safe, and dignified repatriation. In almost every meeting, we were asked repeatedly about the possibility of securing provisional measures. Our team always said that we should hope for the best, but not give up should the Court fail to grant the requested provisional measures.

These resilient women and men were on my mind as I waited for the ICJ’s decision this morning. For them, and countless other ethnic communities in Myanmar who have long languished under Myanmar military’s campaigns, today’s order is historic.

Read ICJ’s full order on their website.

Yee Htun is a Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic. She is a Burmese Canadian lawyer who has been working on human rights issues in Myanmar for over 20 years.

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