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2019-12-10 22:17:20 BdST

All eyes on Hague; hearing on Myanmar genocide begins Tuesday

The hearing on genocide by Myanmar against Rohingyas is all set to begin at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday in The Hague, Netherlands as the Gambia asked the top UN court to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina had asked for provisional measures when filing its Genocide Convention case against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on March 20, 1993. In that case, the ICJ issued an order several weeks later, on April 8, 1993.

The timeline for a decision on the provisional measures can be relatively quick, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Delegations from the Gambia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Canada already reached the Netherlands to remain engaged in the issue inside and outside the top UN court during the three-day hearing on provisional measures through multiple mechanisms, officials said.   

“We’ve discussed internally on what documents we can further share,” an official from Bangladesh delegation told UNB over phone. 

A Bangladesh delegation, led by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, is already there in The Hague.

The delegation has some civil society members, too and they will have meetings with stakeholders and observe the hearing.  

Bangladesh and Canada are working closely over the Rohingya issue, especially on accountability front, officials said.

Though Bangladesh will watch and listen to the hearing making no statement, it will be helpful for Bangladesh to interact with other stakeholders during the hearing, officials said.

“Just arriving in The Hague for three days of ICJ hearings and meetings on the Rohingya genocide issue, one of several accountability measures Canada is working with other countries to pursue,” Bob Rae, Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar tweeted on Monday.

Bob Rae, who has been very instrumental on the accountability track, said he is proud of both his government and parliament for thoughtful and decisive leadership.

The ICJ’s 15-member bench is composed of judges from different countries representing the world’s main legal systems.

ICJ judges work independently of any government and before taking up their duties, must solemnly declare in open court that they will “exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.” Each judge is elected to serve a nine-year term.

The Tatmadaw’s (Myanmar military) well-documented crimes against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar span decades, but until Gambia brought a case before the ICJ, the government’s atrocities had largely been beyond the reach of justice, said the HRW.

Among the provisional measures that the Gambia has requested the court to order “as a matter of extreme urgency” are that Myanmar should immediately take all measures to prevent all genocidal acts; Myanmar should ensure that the military does not commit any genocidal acts; and Myanmar should not destroy or render inaccessible any events related to the underlying application.

On November 11, the Gambia filed a case with the United Nations’ highest court, accusing Myanmar of committing “genocide” in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority and the case may take many years to reach a final ruling.

The case was filed by the Gambia, as Chair of the OIC Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Human Rights Violations against the Rohingya, for violations by Myanmar of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

As part of the lawsuit, the ICJ is requested to impose provisional measures, as a matter of extreme urgency, to protect the Rohingya against further harm by ordering Myanmar to stop all of its genocidal conducts immediately.

Genocide is a crime under international law, as well as international criminal law and all States have an obligation to prevent, to punish, and to not commit genocide, said the OIC in a statement.

Ahead of the hearing, Fortify Rights has said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) should issue “provisional measures” to Myanmar in response to the urgent situation of indigenous ethnic Rohingyas in the country.

New evidence shows how the government of Myanmar continues to violate its obligations under the Genocide Convention, said the rights body which works to ensure human rights for all.

“We’re confident the court will urgently and appropriately respond to the situation,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Fortify Rights.

Gambia Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi are leading the lawyers on behalf of their respective countries during the December 10-12 hearing at International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Suu Kyi will make her statement on December 11.

Bangladesh keeps exploring all available avenues through bilateral and international mechanisms to send back Rohingyas safely to their place of origin in Rakhine State with an active trilateral effort with China and Myanmar in place.

“We want to work in all areas with the same pace,” said Secretary (Asia and Pacific) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Masud Bin Momen recently who is also in The Hague now.

He said the issue of “accountability and justice” is a matter of high moral ground as genocidal acts took place; and the international community has responsibility to address the issue.

Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox’s Bazar since August 25, 2017 amid military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

Not a single Rohingya was repatriated over the last two years due to Myanmar’s “failure” to build confidence among Rohingyas and lack of a conducive environment in Rakhine State, officials here said.

Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1 lakh Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently is expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

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