The persecuted Rohingyas had a moment of celebration as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to prevent genocide of the Muslim minority community.
In a unanimous verdict, the Hague-based world court said that Myanmar has caused “irreparable damage to the rights of the Ronhigya”. The court has the authority to order provisional measures to prevent further harm in case there is an imminent threat. This was a sigh of relief for the Rohingyas who have hailed the decision; their voice is finally being heard.
The case was filed in November last year by the African state of Gambia against Myanmar alleging that it was committing an ongoing genocide. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who now serves as Myanmar’s state counselor, had personally defended her country refuting charges of genocide but admitting that force may have been used. No one is expected to be held guilty but legal experts have described the case a historic legal challenge given the gravity of the crimes.
The world court ordered Myanmar to take measures to prevent any acts of genocide including killing members of the group or causing serious bodily or mental harm, any action which may lead to the destruction, or prevent birth within the group. The innumerable atrocities have been inflicted upon the Rohingyas by the Myanmar army; entire villages have been burnt, thousands of young men have disappeared, women have been sexually abused, while millions have been forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh living in squalid camps.
Myanmar has now been asked to ensure that its powerful military does not commit any acts of genocide or conspires to that effect. Myanmar was also ordered to prevent the destruction of evidence related to the genocide. The question remains how this will be implemented but the orders are legally binding and Myanmar will have to abide by them. Nevertheless, it is a great day for the Rohingyas and the decision is certainly a sharp rebuke to Myanmar’s junta and the disgraced pro-democracy icon.
Rohingyas have hailed the decisions that the UN’s highest court has recognised their suffering. This is just the first legal help and there is still a long way to go before any improvement in the lives of the Rohingya will be seen. However, but the persecuted people have finally had their first taste of justice. Rohingyas need to be repatriated to their homeland and given legal rights to bring eventual peace. This landmark ruling is a moral victory for humanity.