Last Sunday, Myanmar submitted its first report to the International Court of Justice, elaborating on the measures it has taken to protect the Rohingya ethnic minority from genocide. The ICJ had issued a provisional order on Myanmar in January following a call to action made by The Gambia, urging Myanmar to take all necessary means to prevent genocide acts and incitement from happening.
In 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a clearance operation in the Rakhine state in response to an offensive attack by an armed Rohingya group. The violent aftermath that followed this crackdown has forced more than 750,000 Rohingya minority to flee to Bangladesh, languishing in squalid conditions in the world’s largest refugee camp. Another 600,000 Rohingya citizens still reside in the Southern area of Myanmar.
The ongoing crackdown of Myanmar’s security forces had led to mass killing, rape, torture, forced displacement, and other human rights violations, which the ICJ has cited as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Rohingya’s villager homes were ransacked and set on fire, which could be seen from the border in Bangladesh. Discrimination against the Rohingya, however, is not a new phenomenon. According to Aljazeera, “nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.” The Rohingya have been described by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as one of the most discriminated and persecuted populations in the world.
A UN investigator in Myanmar cited the risk posed by these acts of genocide, as they may exaggerate the lack of political accountability and government legitimacy in Myanmar. Myanmar’s government has made no attempt to take any further steps to improve the situation in Rakhine state. The country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has repeatedly rejected the allegation of genocide and war crime. According to Rohingya groups, “Myanmar has ignored the ICJ’s orders and the military is still committing atrocities in Rakhine state, where it is fighting ethnic Rakhine rebels.”
Although the first report from Myanmar regarding the Rohingyan genocide has been sent to the ICJ, many Rohingyans are urging the ICJ to put more pressure on the Myanmar government and force them to abide by the court’s order. In contrast, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes David Scheffer sees the first report from the Myanmar government as a milestone, stating that “the world should learn whether Myanmar not only is complying with an international order, but whether it has done so truthfully and without deception or obfuscation.” Myanmar’s government was further ordered by the ICJ to report consistently and to preserve any evidence of crimes carried out on Rohingya minority groups. Only time will tell if these new orders will be upheld.