ICJ calls for Myanmar to do more to protect Rohingya population

24 May 2020
ICJ calls for Myanmar to do more to protect Rohingya population
Released Rohingya prisoners wearing face masks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic arrive in Sittwe jetty in Rakhine State after being transported by military boat on April 20, 2020. Photo: AFP

In order to comply substantially with the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures Order in the case of The Gambia v. Myanmar, Myanmar should carry out legal reforms and cooperate with international accountability processes, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says.

The Gambia has accused Myanmar of violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention in respect of its treatment of Rohingya population, characterized by acts of widespread killing and displacement of the population.

The call, issued in a press release this week, comes as Myanmar is scheduled to report on “all measures taken” to give effect to the provisional measures Order (Order) issued by the Court on 23 January 2020.

“Myanmar has not taken ‘all measures within its power’ to prevent acts of genocide until it implements comprehensive legal and constitutional reforms,” said Sam Zarifi, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists.  “Accountability lies at the heart of prevention, and so long as the Tatmadaw remains unaccountable to the civilian authorities the cycle of impunity for criminal atrocities within the country will continue.”

Since the Order, Myanmar has taken a limited number of steps linked to its compliance with the Order, including issuing three Presidential Directives encouraging anti-hate speech activities, and ordering compliance with the Genocide Convention and the preservation of evidence of human rights and related violations in Rakhine.

Myanmar has also asserted that the findings of the Government-commissioned Independent Commission of Inquiry (ICOE), which made selective admissions including that war crimes may have been committed during the 2017 “clearance operations” in Rakhine, have been transmitted to the Attorney General and the Commander-in-Chief of the Tatmadaw and that action would be taken “in conformity with military justice procedures if there is credible evidence of any commission of offence by members of the Tatmadaw.”

The ICJ said, however, that the Myanmar government has yet to amend or repeal key laws that facilitate discrimination against the Rohingya, including the 1982 Citizenship Law, 2015 Race and Religion Protection Laws and 2014 Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Law

“Myanmar’s inability to prevent serious human rights violations under the existing legal framework underscores the need for it to cooperate with international justice processes, including the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar – and for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court,” Zarifi said.