Myanmar’s government vowed late Wednesday to defend the country from allegations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In a statement on its official Facebook page, Myanmar’s State Counsellor’s Office said State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will lead a delegation to the court next month.
“The State Counsellor, in her capacity as Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, will lead a team to The Hague, Netherlands, to defend the national interest of Myanmar at the ICJ,” it said.
“Myanmar has retained prominent international lawyers to contest the case submitted by Gambia,” it added, referring to a genocide lawsuit filed this month by the West African country at the ICJ over Myanmar’s treatment of its minority Rohingya Muslim community.
The brief statement did not specify that Gambia’s application to the ICJ involved genocide.
“Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has submitted an application to the ICJ with regard to displaced persons from Rakhine State,” the statement said.
It did, however, acknowledge the country’s obligations as a UN member state.
“Under the Charter of the United Nations, all members of the UN, including Myanmar, are bound by the statue of the ICJ.”
In a statement on Nov. 11, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) termed Gambia’s move as the first judicial scrutiny of Myanmar’s campaign of murder, rape, arson and other atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Myanmar -- if found guilty of breaching international law -- may face punishment, including sanctions.
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Convention.
Meanwhile, the Global Justice Center (GJC), an international human rights and humanitarian law organization, slammed Suu Kyi, who is regarded as Myanmar’s de-facto leader, and the civilian government for failing to hold the country’s military to account for crimes against the Rohingya.
"Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government failed to act against genocide in Rakhine State with any level of urgency and have taken no steps to hold the military to account,” GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan said in a statement.
Citing Suu Kyi’s move as defending the military and government's genocidal actions, she said “the international community should no longer have illusions where Suu Kyi and the civilian government stand.”
The international community “must act to support Gambia and take other measures to hold Myanmar accountable," she added.
Bangladesh, which is hosting 1.2 million Rohingya, as well as rights bodies and Rohingya diaspora organizations worldwide have hailed Gambia for its move, though Myanmar is still defending its military offenses as drives against militancy./aa