It is about time the global community’s conscience is awakened to the Rohingya’s plight, says Gambia’s justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou. Gambia’s case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice begins tomorrow.
By Mustapha K Darboe
Myanmar has failed in its obligations to protect the rights of its Rohingya Muslim minority under the UN Genocide Convention, said Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou.
Tambadou recently spoke with Anadolu Agency at his office in the capital, Banjul, as he prepared his statement to be presented at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands.
He will represent Gambia in its case against Myanmar.
Tambadou left for The Hague last Friday. He is being helped on the case, which is being financed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by U.S. law firm Foley Hoag.
“Gambia is taking this case to the International Court of Justice because Gambia believes that Myanmar has violated the Genocide Convention,” said Tambadou.
“It is also about time that the conscience of the international community is awakened to the plight of the Rohingya…What is going on in Rakhine state is despicable — they are horrible, and the world must hold Myanmar accountable for these actions, and one way to do this is the legal process that Gambia has engaged in.”
This is the first time a country that is not directly affected by a mass atrocity crime is taking another country before the ICJ.
Gambia and Myanmar are state parties to the Genocide Convention, which provides obligations to be fulfilled, including the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
Under the convention, Tambadou said, Myanmar has an obligation “not to commit genocide.”
Gambia is emerging from two decades of dictatorship with a myriad of problems. While the government’s move has generated lot of support within, there are critics who argue that the government should focus on pressing internal issues.
But Tambadou said Gambia has an obligation under the Genocide Convention like any other state when it comes to the prevention and punishment of genocide.
“It does not matter whether it is a weak or a powerful state,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Tambadou noted that he had visited a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh inhabited by Rohingya refugees in early 2018. He said what he saw reminded him of the Rwandan genocide.
“As I sat there with these refugees and they recounted their stories to me, stories of helplessness in the face of mass rape, mass killing…it brought back painful memories of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The stories are all too familiar to me with a decade and a half of interaction with victims of that genocide.
“The OIC was already doing a lot in terms of the political and diplomatic efforts, and I thought that is an avenue that could be used to hold Myanmar accountable,” he said.
The ICJ will hold its first hearings on Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar from Dec. 10-12. Gambia is asking the court to order provisional measures to protect the rights of ethnic Rohingya under the UN Genocide Convention.
“Gambia believes in the international rule of law, and we have complete confidence in the ability of the International Court of Justice to deliver justice. We believe that states should be able to settle their disputes peacefully, and the ICJ is one such forum where disputes between states can be settled peacefully,” he added.
A persecuted people
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.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.”