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Myanmar submits first report to ICJ over Rohingya

Critics say no meaningful steps have been taken to end atrocities against the minority

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Myanmar submits first report to ICJ over Rohingya

Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar arrive at the Naf River on the Bangladesh border on Oct. 10, 2017. (Photo: AFP)

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Myanmar is submitting its first compliance report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on May 23 after being ordered to take all steps within its power to prevent serious harm to the Rohingya.

The reporting obligations are one of the provisional measures imposed by the ICJ in January.

Myanmar is required to report all measures to prevent genocidal acts, ensure its military and police forces do not commit genocidal acts, and preserve all potential evidence of genocidal acts.

Subsequent reports will be due every six months until ICJ makes its final decision. The ICJ has no obligation to make reports public.

Myanmar issued presidential directives on April 8 to all government officials requesting they ensure acts prohibited by Article II of the Genocide Convention are not committed and asking them to denounce and prevent hate speech.

Critics say the directive has no clear guidelines for implementation and monitoring, while the situation on the ground is not progressing.

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional director for Asia, said that despite the ICJ’s order nothing has changed for the estimated 600,000 Rohingya who live in Rakhine state in dire conditions, including around 126,000 whom the authorities are holding indefinitely in camps.

“While Myanmar’s recent presidential directives ordering government personnel not to commit genocide or destroy evidence appear in line with the ICJ’s order, the reality remains that no meaningful steps to end atrocities — including the crime of apartheid — have been taken,” Bequelin said.

Former UN rights expert Yanghee Lee has said Myanmar needs legislation that incorporates the Genocide Convention into its domestic law.

“Sadly, no progress at all,” Lee said in a webinar organized by the Global Justice Center on May 22.

Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said the periodic reports will allow the ICJ to monitor Myanmar’s actions related to the Rohingya in real time as the case proceeds.

“Unfortunately, the response since then from Myanmar’s government has been deeply flawed at worst and superficial at best,” Radhakrishnan said in a May 22 statement.

Myanmar has been facing international legal pressure including from the International Criminal Court over atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.

Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended her country’s reputation at the ICJ in The Hague last December.

A UN fact-finding mission reported that “genocidal acts” carried out in Rakhine by Myanmar’s military in 2017 resulted in more than 740,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s government regards the Rohingya as “Bengalis”. By not recognizing the term “Rohingya,” the government has implied that they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh despite most of them having lived in the country for decades.

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