Pressure mounts on Myanmar | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:40 AM, January 25, 2020

Pressure mounts on Myanmar

UN chief to notify UNSC about ICJ genocide ruling

Myanmar and its ally China will face mounting pressure after the World Court asked Naypyidaw to stop genocidal acts in Rakhine State, analysts said.

The ruling is a slap on Myanmar and its allies, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at Dhaka University, told The Daily Star yesterday.

The most important aspect of the ruling is that Myanmar has to submit a report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) within four months on the measures taken to prevent the genocidal acts. Similar reports will have to be submitted every six months, he said.

The Gambia has to approve of the reports that will be submitted by Myanmar, he added.

The ICJ on Thursday ordered Myanmar not to destroy the evidence of crimes committed against the ethnic minority in Rakhine State.

“A big victory in the ruling is that the ICJ has recognised the ethnic community as Rohingya. So, Myanmar cannot deny this identity and say they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” said Imtiaz.

The 17 judges, including the ones from Myanmar, China and Gambia, unanimously took the decision, which is quite rare, the professor of international relations said.

The provisional measures ordered by the court, are legally-binding. In accordance with the Statute of the Court, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will promptly transmit the notice of the provisional measures to the UN Security Council, according to a statement issued yesterday by a spokesperson of Guterres.

Guterres strongly supported the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes, it said.

He further recalls that, pursuant to the Charter and to the Statute of the Court, decisions of the court are binding and believes that Myanmar will duly comply with the order from the court, it added.

Asked what role China and Russia can play when the orders are sent to the UN Security Council as these veto powers earlier opposed any concrete actions against Myanmar for the atrocities, Imtiaz said, “Even if the Security Council doesn’t work, Myanmar is legally-bound to implement the orders.”

He reckons that China and Russia will not oppose the ICJ orders because they will be then globally described as complicit in genocide.

There were questions as to whether Dhaka was able to truly internationalise the Rohingya crisis, but with the ICJ ruling, it has been ensured that a global body, of which Myanmar is a member, will watch Myanmar’s actions, he said.

If China, Japan and India don’t work effectively to help Myanmar enforce the ICJ orders, Bangladesh will now tell them that they will be complicit in genocidal acts, he added.

This is an opportunity for Bangladesh to strongly negotiate with Myanmar and its allies and put pressure on the country to find a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis which originated in the 1970s.

Some 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military campaign and took shelter in Bangladesh, joining some 300,000 others who had fled earlier waves of violence in Rakhine.

They have been denied citizenship, basic rights like education and health, and freedom of movement.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen said the challenge for Bangladesh was to use the global pressure created on Myanmar and its allies.

“The World Court will take five to six years to complete the trial. Meanwhile, we will continue to engage bilaterally with Myanmar,” he said at an event in the capital Thursday night.

Masud said the ICJ ruling will create confidence among the Rohingyas for returning to their homeland in Rakhine.

Japan, China and India are with Bangladesh, he said, adding, “They have geo-strategic interests in the region… We have economic and strategic partnership with them and will nurture that and try to solve the problem.”


The UK has encouraged Myanmar to comply with the legally-binding provisional measures.

“The Court was clear that Myanmar must do more to protect the Rohingya,” said Heather Wheeler, UK minister for Asia and the Pacific, in a statement.

Malaysia said the ICJ order is a step in the right direction to address the situation.

“The decision [of ICJ] reflects the serious concern of the international community on the need to address effectively the plight of the Rohingya and establish accountability and justice in respect of alleged serious human rights violations against the Rohingya,” said a Malaysian foreign ministry statement.

“As a fellow state party to the 1948 Genocide Convention, Malaysia calls on Myanmar to fulfil its obligations… to ensure that the crisis is not prolonged.”

Amnesty International said the ICJ decision sends a message to Myanmar’s senior officials that the world will not tolerate their atrocities, and will not blindly accept their empty rhetoric on the reality in Rakhine State today.

An estimated 600,000 Rohingya people who remain there are routinely and systematically denied their most basic rights, it said.

“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,” said its Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin.

In a statement, 103 civil society bodies of Myanmar said political and military policies have always been imposed with violent force and intimidation upon the people of Myanmar on the basis of their political and religious beliefs and ethnic identities.

“Lessons from history have shown that aforementioned acts of violence and intimidation were committed with impunity, using mechanisms of political power and military might. The inability and incapability of Myanmar’s internal justice mechanism enable perpetrators to continue to carry out violent acts with impunity,” it said. 

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