Matter referred to Security Council . . .
In a 17-0 decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the Myanmar government to immediately halt acts of genocide against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. The ruling is the first in a larger lawsuit filed by the Gambia, with the backing of the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Myanmar strongly rejected the court’s decision, but according to Human Rights Watch, as a party to the UN’s Genocide Convention, Myanmar’s “explicit recognition of the ICJ’s authority should dispense with any legal question as to whether the government needs to comply with the court’s orders and decisions.” ICJ decisions are legally binding, although it lacks an enforcement mechanism. The matter has been referred to the UN Security Council, and Myanmar will be required to report on its progress in four months.
A neighbourhood divided . . .
While the international community largely sides with the court’s decision, Myanmar has found some key defenders from within its own region. In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Myanmar for human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities. Voting with the 139 majority were fellow ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which are OIC members, and Bangladesh, which is hosting 740,000 Rohingya refugees. The nine countries that voted against it include China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), as well as Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Russia, another UNSC veto holder. India, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand were among the 28 countries that abstained.
Canada backs Gambia-led suit . . .
Canada, along with the Netherlands, has emerged as a major supporter of the Gambia-led lawsuit. In September 2018, the Canadian House of Commons “unanimously supported a motion calling the crimes against the Rohingya people a genocide.” And yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that Canada will work with allies to ensure Myanmar complies with the ICJ ruling. Bob Rae, Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, also said Canada is deciding whether to join the prosecution as it moves into the next phases.
- Al Jazeera: After ICJ ruling, Myanmar denies genocide against Rohingya
- Council on Foreign Relations: Backgrounder: The Rohingya crisis
- Globe and Mail: World court orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide