The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal warmly welcomes the strong and unanimous ruling made on 23 January by the 17 judges of the International Court of Justice ordering a range of provisional measures in order to preserve certain rights claimed by The Gambia for the protection of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
For the world’s highest court to state clearly that “the Rohingya in Myanmar appear to constitute a protected group within the meaning of the Genocide Convention” is itself a highly significant rejection of the constant denial of even the existence of the Rohingya group by the government of Myanmar. Of crucial importance for the case to move forward, the ICJ also categorically dismissed Myanmar’s arguments denying its obligations under the Genocide Convention and denying The Gambia’s right to apply to the Court to institute proceedings against Myanmar concerning alleged violations of the Convention.
Furthermore, the Court asserted its prima facie jurisdiction, inter alia, by noting reports of the UN Fact Finding Mission and resolutions by the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Commission, and finding as at least plausible that “at least some of the acts alleged by The Gambia are capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention” and that “there is a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice… to the right of the Rohingya group in Myanmar and of its members to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts” and rejecting Myanmar’s claims to be sufficiently engaging in efforts towards repatriation of refugees, ethnic reconciliation and military accountability.
The ICJ therefore went on unanimously to order Myanmar to implement the following provisional measures proposed by The Gambia, namely:
- take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention, in particular killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- in relation to the members of the Rohingya group in its territory, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts described in point (1) above, or of conspiracy to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, of attempt to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide;
- take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;
- submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within four months, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter every six months, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.
While these orders are provisional in nature, pending the Court’s final decision on the case, and do not yet constitute a ruling by the ICJ on whether genocide has been or is still being committed by Myanmar against the Rohingyas, they nevertheless represent an enormous step forward in international judicial recognition of the crimes and consequent implicit condemnation of the state of Myanmar for not preventing and punishing them.
This ICJ order is the third significant victory achieved by the Rohingyas in the international arena. Firstly, we recall the judgment made more than two years ago by the PPT’s Session on State Crimes Allegedly Committed in Myanmar against the Rohingyas, Kachins and Other Groups (held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), which was the first judicial body to make a finding of genocide regarding the Rohingya, reaching its most intense and horrific climax at the very time that the tribunal was meeting. The PPT in September 2017 found that the state of Myanmar has the intent to commit genocide against the Kachin people and the other Myanmar Muslims. Further, that the state of Myanmar is guilty of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya; that genocide against the Rohingya is now taking place with ongoing acts of genocide; and that the number of casualties of that genocide will be even higher in the future if nothing is done to stop it.
This was followed by a number of strong statements and resolutions by various UN bodies and Special Rapporteurs, and particularly by the detailed findings made by the Fact-Finding Mission established by the UN Human Rights Commission and recent resolution by the UN General Assembly – all of which built on the detailed and corroborated reports by victims and other witnesses as well as by individual researchers and NGOs, made both before and after the PPT judgment.
The ICJ’s order on provisional measures is a vindication of the valiant efforts by the Rohingya people to resist attempts to destroy them, in whole or in part, and of all those activists, researchers, journalists and humanitarian workers who have supported their cause. Of particular mention must be The Gambia for boldly taking this case to the world’s highest court and to the jurists and researchers who made up their team.
On behalf of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal,
Helen Jarvis, Vice-President, judge of the PPT’s Session on State crimes allegedly committed in Myanmar agaist the Rohingyas, Kachins and other groups (18-22 September 2017, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)