Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Myanmar has submitted its first report to the International Court of Justice in respect of the Rohingya minority and the report contains details of Myanmar’s efforts to protect the minority population from genocide (Aljazeera, 2020). The Rohingya Muslims had been facing systematic and targeted violence, discrimination and statelessness in the Rakhine State of Myanmar since the past few decades (UNOCHA, 2018). The friction between the Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims had resulted in violent attacks in the years 1978, 1991, 1992 and 2016 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) against the Buddhist population and the security forces of the Burmese Government. But, in August 2017, ARSA launched a series of attacks on several militaries and police outposts that led to the deaths of more than seventy people including security personnel (Global Conflict Tracker, 2020). The response by the military forces of Myanmar led to one of the largest humanitarian crisis in recent years due to the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya population.
Instances of entire villages being razed to the ground, separation of families, mass killings and gangrape of women and girl children occurred after that (UNOCHA, 2018) and the Rohingya population had to flee to neighbouring nations. Due to this, a large influx in Bangladesh was witnessed. Various international actors came into play to support the refugee populations and most of the refugees in Bangladesh took refuge in Cox’s Bazar, which has now taken the characteristics of a city, accommodating more than 600,000 Rohingya populaces living in unsanitary settlements with struggling basic healthcare facilities and employment with few improvements due to the efforts of international actors (Milko and Hammond, 2019).
The report submitted by Myanmar, referred to above, is pertaining to the direction of the International Court of Justice as per Order dated 11th November 2019 in Republic of the Gambia v. Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Application Instituting Proceedings and Request for Provisional Measures).
The United States of America Ambassador has termed Myanmar’s report submission as an “important milestone”. However, Rohingya groups have constantly stated that no substantial move for the cessation of genocide and its ancillary activities have been taken by Myanmar and atrocities are still being committed (Aljazeera, 2020). It has also been reported that since the order dated 11th November 2019 of the International Court of Justice, an increase in killings and injuries of Rohingya groups by military shelling in Rakhine (Aljazeera, 2020).
The United Nations has termed the Rohingya Muslims as the world’s most persecuted people (Aljazeera, 2020). Since the persecuted Rohingya community fled from Myanmar, approximately 24,000 of the remnant populaces have been killed in Myanmar (Habib and Ahmad, 2018).
It is extremely unfortunate that although indulgence in genocide, crimes against humanity, racial discrimination and torture have been accorded jus cogens violations, (United Nations General Assembly, 2015) nations have often taken the least measures to avoid such atrocious human rights violations. Not only this, but nations have also taken actions that are in contravention of the doctrine of non- refoulement which has taken the status of international customary law over the span of international law evolution. This is evident by the fact that out of all the nations, the Rohingya populations fled to, only Bangladesh sheltered and granted refuge to them.
The case pending before the International Court of Justice which ordered the submission of the report is not the only legal action pending before Myanmar before international legal forums. On 14th November, 2019 the International Criminal Court also authorised the Prosecutor of the Court appointed under the Rome Statute to conduct investigation, according to which, further proceedings would take place (International Criminal Court, 2019). This order was passed by the Court in pursuance to the application filed by Bangladesh in The Situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/ Republic of Myanmar case by applying the “territoriality principle”, which otherwise would not have been possible due to the fact that Myanmar has not ratified the Rome Statute and that it was unwilling to accept the jurisdiction of the Court. Moreover, this was also necessary since the United Nations Security Council was unable to pass a resolution in this respect to give jurisdiction to the Court due to China’s support towards Myanmar.
Although cases before both, the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court are pending against Myanmar, in consideration of the duration taken for cases to resolve in the international sphere, ambiguities in various facets in international law, lackadaisical enforcement in the international sphere and sacrosanct nature of sovereignty in international law make justice an extremely slow and an unreasonably ineffective process. In consideration of the fact that grave and irreparable damage has already been inflicted upon the Rohingya population, it is going to be extremely difficult for Myanmar to reverse the effects of such actions irrespective of the measures it elucidates in its reports before the International Court of Justice. Moreover, the treatment of the Rohingya people as terrorists through various official statements by Myanmar leaves very little room for amelioration in the situation. Unless enforcement and response actions under the international sphere are not rethought, reinforced and made resilient, keeping in mind the importance of jus cogens compliance for the survival of the international society as a whole, it is going to be difficult to prevent future such instances of genocidal atrocities by nations and like every other refugee and stateless group, the Rohingya population will suffer for the decades to come.
Aljazeera. “Myanmar Submits First Report on Rohingya to UN’s Top Court”. Aljazeera. (24 May 2020). [27 May 2020]. Available from: <https://www-aljazeera-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2020/05/myanmar-submits-report-rohingya-top-court-200524053637929.html>.
Global Conflict Tracker. “Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar”. Global Conflict Tracker. (2020). [27 May 2020]. Available from: <https://www.cfr.org/interactive/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/rohingya-crisis-myanmar>.
Habib, Mohshin and Ahmad, Salahuddin, “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience”, Ontario International Development Agency, (August 2018), ISBN: 978-0-9866815-1-6.
International Criminal Court, “ICC Judges Authorise Opening of an Investigation into the Situation in Bangladesh/ Myanmar”, Press Release: ICC-CPI-20191114-PR1495, (14 November 2019), <https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=pr1495>.
Milko, Victoria; Hammond, Clarke. “The World’s Largest Refugee Camp is Becoming a Real City”. CityLab. (27 September 2019). [27 May 2020]. Available from: <https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/09/rohingya-refugees-kutupalong-camp-design-myanmar-bangladesh/597076/>.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, A/CONF.183/9, (1998), <https://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/ADD16852-AEE9-4757-ABE7-9CDC7CF02886/283503/RomeStatutEng1.pdf>.
Republic of the Gambia Versus Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Application Instituting Proceedings and Request for Provisional Measures). Order. (11 November 2019) [27 May 2020]. Available from: <https://www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/178/178-20191111-APP-01-00-EN.pdf>.
Situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/ Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Decision Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute on the Authorisation of an Investigation into the Situation in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh/ Republic of the Union of Myanmar), (14 November 2019), ICC- 01/ 19 <https://www.icc-cpi.int/CourtRecords/CR2019_06955.PDF>.
United Nations General Assembly, “Peremptory Norms of General International Law (Jus Cogens)”, A/74/10, (2015), <https://legal.un.org/ilc/reports/2019/english/chp5.pdf>.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Rohingya Refugee Crisis”. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2018). [27 May 2020]. Available from: <https://www.unocha.org/rohingya-refugee-crisis>.