The Gambia has filed a case against Myanmar with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Such a decisive step by the OIC has been long overdue. We also applaud the Gambian Justice Minister Mr Abubacarr Tambadou for his initiative. Indeed, the time has come to hold the Myanmar state and its officials accountable, a cause that should have been taken up by the international community long ago, but wasn’t. This comes in the backdrop of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission in September that produced a list of names of those the UN believes to be directly involved in the crackdown on the Rohingyas that resulted in some 750,000 of them fleeing Myanmar into Bangladesh.
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention which explicitly prohibits states from committing genocide, but also compels all signatory states to prevent and punish the crime. That Gambia filed the case rests on the fact that Mr Tambadou has worked for decades as a lawyer at the UN tribunal that dealt with the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Genocide experts believe that the failure of the international community to hold the Myanmar government accountable merely reinforced its belief that it had succeeded in its efforts to cleanse the land of Rohingyas. Myanmar has been enjoying a sense of impunity, but that could all change, since the International Criminal Court (ICC) has also started investigating crimes against the Rohingyas. The filing of the case by Gambia is in fact, a step in the right direction towards justice. Inaction against such blatant genocidal acts will not only encourage Myanmar to replicate its pernicious acts against its own minorities but also other states of Myanmar’s ilk to do the same.