Mixed reaction to ICJ's measures against Myanmar

Government denies charges of genocide as rights activists laud UN court's ruling
Mixed reaction to ICJ's measures against Myanmar

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi last month appealed to ICJ judges to dismiss allegations that Myanmar committed genocide and instead allow the country’s court martial system to deal with rights abuses. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations and rights groups have welcomed the International Court of Justice’s ruling on provisional measures against Myanmar and urged the country to duly comply with the court's order.

In its ruling on Jan. 23, the ICJ imposed provisional measures against Myanmar, ordering the government to comply with obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Myanmar is also urged to take all measures within its power to prevent the killing of Rohingya or causing bodily or mental harm to members of the group, including by the military or any irregular armed units.

Myanmar has to submit a report to the ICJ within four months, with further reports due every six months until a final decision on the case is rendered by the court.

UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the court’s decision and said he strongly supports the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes.

“He further recalls that, pursuant to the [UN] Charter and to the Statute of the Court, decisions of the court are binding and trusts that Myanmar will duly comply with the order from the court,” a spokesman for the secretary-general said in a Jan. 23 statement.

Guterres will transmit the notice about the provisional measures to the UN Security Council.

Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the ICJ order is a landmark step to stop further atrocities against one of the world’s most persecuted people.

“Concerned governments and UN bodies should now weigh in to ensure that the order is enforced as the genocide case moves forward,” Singh said.

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director, said the ruling sends a message to Myanmar’s senior officials that the world will not tolerate the atrocities and will not blindly accept their empty rhetoric on the reality in Rakhine state today.

He said an estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remain there are routinely and systematically denied the most basic rights and face a real risk of further atrocities.

“Myanmar must comply with the ICJ’s ruling and take immediate action to cease ongoing violations against the community and to prevent the destruction of evidence,” Bequelin said.

Myanmar’s government has responded strongly to the ICJ’s ruling, pointing out that the unsubstantiated condemnation of Myanmar by some human rights actors has presented a distorted picture of the situation in Rakhine.

“This has hampered Myanmar’s ability to lay the foundation for sustainable development in Rakhine,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Kyaw Nyunt, associate pastor of Judson Church in Yangon, said it is just an order from the ICJ to prevent rights violations and this is what the government of Myanmar has been carrying out.

“Myanmar’s commission has already said that serious rights violations have occurred but it is not genocide as has been alleged by the international community,” Kyaw Nyunt told UCA News.

Kyaw Nyunt, a member of the Rakhine Investigation Commission established in mid-2012 under former president Thein Sein, said it is good for the country that granting access to the UN and international rights groups was not included in the provisional measures under the ICJ’s ruling.

Pe Than, a lower house lawmaker for the Arakan National Party, said the court’s decision appears to be a predecided act to punish the country for alleged genocide.

“It signals that our country will face enormous pressure from the international community and could face trade sanctions, which may be a very challenging for us in the transition to democracy,” Pe Than, an ethnic Rakhine, told UCA News.

He added that the perception of the international community and the situation on the ground in Rakhine are totally different as there was no genocide in the country.

In her appearance before the court in December, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi described the violence as an "internal armed conflict" triggered by Rohingya militant attacks on government security posts.

The complaint filed by the Gambia is one of the first attempts to use the international justice system to help the estimated 730,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar following military clearance operations in Rakhine in 2017.

Six of Myanmar’s most senior army officers have been accused of genocide by a UN fact-finding mission, which recommended criminal prosecution.

Once an international icon representing peaceful defiance of military dictatorship, 74-year-old Suu Kyi has been slammed for defending the army and failing to take action to stem the Rohingya exodus.

She appealed to ICJ judges to dismiss allegations that Myanmar committed genocide and instead allow the country’s court martial system to deal with human rights abuses.

“An informed assessment of Myanmar’s ability to address the issue of violations in Rakhine can only be made if adequate time is given for domestic justice to run its course,” the Nobel peace prize laureate said in an article published in the Financial Times on Jan. 23.

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