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Uncertainty Over ICJ Outcome of Genocide Trial of Myanmar

Published Dec 16, 2019
Updated Feb 05, 2020

The International Court of Justice the U.N.’s highest court has heard the case against Myanmar for genocide filed by The Gambia from 11 to 13 December. Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung Suu Kyi took the unusual step of personally defending the Government and particularly the military which  has been alleged to be behind a campaign that led to the fleeing of over 700,00 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh in 2017.

The supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi  commended her for defending the country’s interests. Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, Tatmadaw True News Information Team said, “ When [the government] formed the defense team, we dispatched two military officers to join the team, and we acted on the instructions of the government. [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi], in the short time available, was able to inform the international community about the root causes of the Rakhine issue and the terrorist acts by ARSA [the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army], which were previously concealed from the international community. She was also able to explain that the government and the Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] are working responsibly and with accountability in accordance with the Tatmadaw’s judicial system. She also clarified the misunderstanding on the part of international community about the clearance operation [by the military that triggered the 2017 Rohingya exodus]”.

Dr. Myo Nyunt Spokesperson, National League for Democracy said, “We believe the team led by the State Counselor will be able to present legally strong arguments in accordance with the dignity of the country. The ICJ’s view will depend on the reasoning of the judges. The Myanmar team’s presentation has been based mainly on the facts of the [UN] Fact-Finding Mission, and it has been able to argue against the genocide allegations. The advocates for Myanmar were able to argue that there are no grounds to uphold a lawsuit alleging genocide”.The ICJ premises in the Hague saw a large number of expat Myanmarese as well as Rohingya supporters turning up to cheer their respective sides.Rohingya Muslims in camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh who were praying that the suit succeeds.Legally speaking many believe that the charge of genocide is specific in nature and would be difficult to prove in the case of Rohingya, while accepting that overwhelming force was used by the Myanmar Army which could amount to ethnic cleansing and mass violation of rights.Underlying the developments is the clear divide that has emerged in Myanmar over the issue which may impact relations within the communities the Rohingya and the majority Burmans in the long term with widening of the divide.