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Home » Home, UN NEWS » U.N. Reacts Promptly on Myanmar Case on I.C.J.

U.N. Reacts Promptly on Myanmar Case on I.C.J.

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Aziz Haq (Photo by Erol Avdović, UN HQ Webpublicapress 24 January 2020)

UN Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq at daily press briefing at the UN HQ on 24 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress)

Dr. Rene Wadlow scholar from France (Courtesy photo by author - for education only)

International Court of Justice (ICJ) Hague (ICJ photo credit)

Gambian agent lawyer at the ICJ Abubacarr Marie Tambadou (Courtesy photo for education only)

By Erol Avdović (WEBPUBLICA / UNITED NATIONS) New York – With unprecedented speed the

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres talking to the Holocaust survivor at the Auschwitz Liberation Day event at the United Nations in New York, 21 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdović Webpublicapress).

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations in New York, 21 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdović Webpublicapress).

United Nations Secretary General’s spokesmen delivered a statement only few hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision to condemn the actions of the Miyanmar government over Rohingya Muslims. Unanimous ICJ ruling called on the official Rangoon to take all measures to prevent genocide of more then 600.000 remaining Rohingya, formaly Myanmar citizens and to respect their human rights,. Rohingya are „still extremely vulnerable to violence at the hands of the military” as said by Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, president of the Court.

UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the ICJ order immediately in the case of Gambia vs. Myanmar on the breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.


A very fast UN reaction


On 23 January, a ICJ panel of 17 judges called for emergency provisional measures in order to respect the Genocide Convention (1948) and its clear requirements. Although not the country from which the Rohingya are fleeing nor the country to which they are forced to be refugees like in Bangladesh for example, Gambia, an African state has acted as the conscience of the world, which is nowa recognized world-wide.

The court’s ruling was flagrant rejection of the official denial narrative of Myanmar government on the issue, and arguments offered in by Aung San Suu Kyi during the three-day hearing of the ICJ in from 10 to 13 December 2019. According to news agencies Suu Kyi last moth told judges at ICJ – the exodus was a only tragic consequence of the military’s response to “coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks” by Rohingya people.

Once celebrated as a international star and symbol of the fight for democracy, wining the Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other international accolades, in a meantime Aung San Suu Kyi became not-so-popular figure in the West. This unpopularity is even more magnified as she tried to deny all the allegations against her government. Thus, Suu Kyi fell into insensitive complicity for not recognizing the suffering of the Rohingyas caused by the government she represents.

Without mentioning her name or any other country’s officials the UN Secretary General also stressed the importance of Court’s unanimous decision to put requests on Myanmar, within the framework of the Genocide Convention. In a written statement delivered by mail to UN journalists Guterres said, it was Myanmar was obliged “to take all measures within its power” to protect members of the Rohingya population in its territory.

Aung San Suu Kyi in Geneva 2012 (UN Photo Violaine Martin)

Aung San Suu Kyi in Geneva 2012 (UN Photo Violaine Martin)

Rangoon was called to prevent acts that have endangered the very existence of Rohingya including “killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s destruction and imposing measures intended to prevent births.”

Mr. Guterres also noted the Court’s instruction to Myanmar “to ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units directed or supported by it and any organizations and persons subject to its control, do not commit such acts.”

Repeating and emphasizing the court’s decisions and instructions, UN Secretary General warned Myanmar government not to “conspire to commit genocide,” and neither directly and publicly “incite the commission of genocide, do not attempt to commit genocide and be not complicit in genocide.”


Legal example for others


This ICJ decision is “all the more remarkable as one of the 17 judges was nominated by Myanmar and another by the Gambia which had brought the complaint to the Court,” said dr. Rene Wadlow, president of the French nongovernmental Association of World Citizens and their representative at the United Nations in Geneva.

Dr. Rene Wadlow scholar from France (Courtesy photo by author - for education only)

Dr. Rene Wadlow scholar from France (Courtesy photo by author – for education only)

“This call for provisional measures is not the final decision of the Court, but it does point to what is likely to be the final judgment,” dr. Wadlow said. “The Court does not have direct means of enforcement,” he said, stressing, that “there needs to be a strong pressure” in order this ruling to be implemented.

Dr. Wadlow also noticed that this is the first time that ICJ has been asked to deal with respect to the Genocide Convention “and is thus an important step in the development of World Law.” All UN members states are automatically ICJ members. The ICJ, otherwise known as a World Court is mostly dealing with the disputes failed by states regarding inter-borders demarcation. But it also hears the case of similar nature, like this one of Gambia against Myanmar.

More recently (2008), the ICJ has seen a lawsuit brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia (and Montenegro) precisely for genocide that has happened in 1995 but the World Court ruled hat Serbia was not responsible for the Srebrenica genocide, nor that it was complicit, but Serbia had committed a breach of the Genocide Convention by failing to prevent the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by their Bosnian Serb compatriots of orthodox denominations.

Although it was expected that the first-instance decision will be appealed within 10 years framework (2018) since the lawsuit was reduced to the semi-responsibility, of Serbia for not doing enough instead doing more to prevent the genocide, Bosnia and Herzegovina herself ruined her chances by a series of procedural errors against the Court, which rejected her inadequately prepared appeal.

The swift decision Order by ICJ against Miyanmar shows how international law works when a lawsuit is filed properly and in irrefutable arguments. Although many would say the Bosnians had such arguments in their hands, they still missed their legal chance, and most importantly they missed the obligation that they had toward victims of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995). But Gambia this time acted swiftly and properly.

While emphasizing the use of peaceful means to settle international disputes, UN Secretary General also reminded that decisions of the Court (ICJ), needs to be fully applied, expressing the trusts – Myanmar “will duly comply” with the Court’s ruling. UN said the Secretary General will “promptly transmit” the notice of the provisional measures” delivered by the Court (ICJ) to all 15 member states of the UN Security Council.


UN Security Council on call 


Answering to the question of the WebpublicaPress (WPP)  reporter at the UN Headquarters in

UN Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq at daily press briefing at the UN HQ on 24 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress)

UN Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq at daily press briefing at the UN HQ on 24 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdović, Webpublicapress)

New York – what next step will be taken by UN chief in order to ensure full Myanmar compliance with the ICJ ruling, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said everything that will follow will be done in accordance with the applicable norms and standard procedures by which mandatory ICJ decisions are regularly brought to the attention of the UN Security Council.

“That’s the standard procedure that, in line with the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the Secretary General now transmits this order to the Security Council,” Hak told WPP at the UN daily press briefing. “Of course, it’s up to the Security Council to determine what it wants to proceed to do after that,” he added. He also said that regarding further steps, UN urge all states, “including, of course, Myanmar, to abide by them.”  The International Court of Justice “will now continue with its actual consideration of the substance of the case,” Haq said.

On 11. November 2019 the government of Gambia brought the issue of the Rohingya calamity to the International Court of Justice in the Hague which has long been discussed in international public discourse and has already been described by the UN as a school example of ethnic cleansing. With all the known arguments and extensive records of the suffering of this ethnic group, otherwise the Muslim minority in Myanmar, the ICJ has been exposed to documents with authentic testimonies from independent observers in the field. The complaint against the Government of Myanmar was assembled for violation of the Genocide Convention regarding proven actions against the Rohingya, and as such delivered to the Court.

Asked weather the Secretary General already had any feedback from the member states and Myanmar, including any negative reaction UN spokesperson said UN is still waiting to see what they “can gather” from different member states.  “But, again, our hope is that all states will comply, as we hope for all rulings of the International Court of Justice,” Haq concluded.


The case for history books


International Court of Justice (ICJ) Hague (ICJ photo credit)

International Court of Justice (ICJ) Hague (ICJ photo credit)

“Under the rules of the ICJ, member states can bring action against other member states over disputes alleging breaches of international law, in this case the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” wrote dr. Wadlow in a opinion published by IDN News from Berlin, a cooperating media partner of Webpublicapress.

He reminds that most of the ICJ cases are regarding actions, such as inter-state border demarcation in which the World Court has been particularly active,

But, after this case Gambia vs. Myanmar the expectation grow that once all the documentation accompanying is rounded up, sorted and archived, this lawsuit regarding the massive human rights violations of one ethnic group over another will be an important legal source for other cases. That includes the probable criminal responsibility that will follow for the perpetrators of crimes against Rohingya.

UN Secretary General also noted the importance of preserving records that could be evidence against those who defied international standards and specifically the Genocide Convention – to which this court clearly warns. Namely, the ICJ demanded Myanmar – “to ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of the Genocide Convention.” Rangoon was ordered to report to ICJ on a regular basis on the implementation of all provisional measures.

And the attorney general of Gambia, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, who had served as a special assistant to the ICJ prosecutor said — this case was designed to send “a clear message to Myanmar and the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of the terrible atrocities that are occurring around us.” 

Gambian agent lawyer at the ICJ Abubacarr Marie Tambadou (Courtesy photo for education only)

Gambian agent lawyer at the ICJ Abubacarr Marie Tambadou (Courtesy photo for education only)

This Gambian lawyer and politician (born 1972) will be remembered for the statements given around the time of this important legal victory in the Hague. One would say, his words are going directly to the history books – to the benefit active part of humanity that has learned its lessons in Bosnia (Srebrenica 1995) and Rwanda (1994).

Marie Tambadou will be remembered saying the atrocities in Myanmar are  “a shame for our generation” as a reminder we (again) “do nothing while genocide is unfolding before our own eyes.”

From his side dr. Wadlow also reminded on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who on 8. December 1998 said: “Many thought no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits.”


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