Dhaka – The top United Nations court has asked Myanmar to take urgent measures to prevent the alleged genocide of the Rohingya Muslims, one of the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority groups.
Presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of the International Court of Justice passed the order in Hague on Thursday based on the hearing from both sides after the Gambia filed a petition seeking ruling from the court on the allegations of genocide carried out by the Myanmar military on the ethnic group.
The order came for the first time after nearly 730,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh fleeing a military crackdown that targeted the Rohingya Muslims in August 2017.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague granted a series of emergency steps requested by the Muslim African state of The Gambia under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Myanmar must “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts” described by the genocide convention, the judge said mentioning “killing members of the group” and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
“The court was of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable,” reads the judge ordering Myanmar to report back within four months about the measures it takes, and then every six months after that so that The Gambia can review the situation until the full verdict comes.
The court — set up after World War II as the UN’s top judicial organ to rule in disputes between nations — had earlier ruled for the first time that it had jurisdiction in the case.
Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi travelled to The Hague in December to personally defend her country against allegations of widespread rape, arson and mass killings by the military of her country during the crackdown, which was, earlier, termed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the UN.
The ICJ’s orders are binding but it has no power to enforce them.
Rohingya Muslims staying in Bangladesh and Myanmar welcomed the verdict. Bangladesh also welcomed the verdict terming it “a victory for humanity” and “a milestone for human rights activists across the nations”.
“I hope, Myanmar will now act on its promise to take back the refugees from Bangladesh,” Foreign Minister Abul Kalam Abdul Momen told reporters in Dhaka hours after the ICJ verdict was delivered.
The Rohingya Muslims will also get confident now believing that the international community was with them, he said.
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said Myanmar, under no circumstance, will do anything breaching the provision of the genocide convention.
“To comply with the verdict, Myanmar will now repatriate the Rohingya Muslims and restore their right to citizenship at home,” he said.
The ruling comes days after a Myanmar commission concluded that some soldiers likely committed war crimes against the minority group but that the military was not guilty of genocide.
In a rare joint statement Wednesday, more than 100 Myanmar civil society organisations expressed support for the ICJ case.
They said Myanmar’s internal judiciary was incapable of assuring accountability and simply enabled the perpetrators to “continue to carry out such violent acts with impunity”.