By James Ezema, with Agency Reports
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has reacted to a judgment by the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Myanmar to take emergency measures to prevent genocide of the Rohingya.
He termed the order “a victory for humanity and a milestone for human rights activists across the world”.
The ICJ had in a unanimous ruling issued by a panel of 17 Judges, and read by presiding Judge Abdulaqawi Ahmed Yusuf, upheld the provisions of the 1948 Genocide Convention – saying Myanmar had “caused irreparable damage to the rights of the Rohingya”.
The Foreign Minister in his reaction said: “It’s a victory for humanity, a milestone for human rights activists across all nations,” said the Foreign Minister in his reaction from Ecuador.
Dr Momen also said this is a victory for The Gambia, OIC, Rohingyas and of course, for Bangladesh. “God bless humanity and also the ‘mother of humanity’ Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”
In the sweeping legal victory for members of the Rohingya Muslim minority, the United Nations’ top court on Thursday ordered Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya people.
The court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the International Court of Justice “is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable.”
An estimated 745,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017. AP File Photo
The ICJ accepted all 4 provisional measure requests in an unanimous (all 15 judges) verdict and asked Myanmar to submit a report within four months confirming measures taken, after that report every six months.
Court used the term ‘Rohingya’ and also rejected Myanmar’s claim and asked it to stop genocide and atrocities against Rohingyas.
The Foreign Minister said such verdict hopefully will stop the recurrence of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the world.
Background to the Case
The Rohingya, who numbered about one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims are the largest community of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine State.
But Myanmar’s government denies them citizenship, refusing to recognise them as a people and seeing them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Waves of Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh over the decades but their latest exodus began on 25 August 2017 after militants from a Rohingya insurgent group called Arsa launched deadly attacks on more than 30 police posts.
Rohingyas arriving in Bangladesh said they had fled after troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, responded by burning their villages and attacking and killing civilians.
The government claims that “clearance operations” against the militants ended on 5 September 2017, but analysis of satellite imagery by Human Rights Watch suggests hundreds of villages were destroyed after August that year.
Rohingya Groups Welcome Decision
Nearly a dozen men were glued to a television screen inside a ramshackle shop in southern Bangladesh’s Kutupalong refugee camp, home to nearly 40,000 Rohingya refugees.
The men were watching the proceedings at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which on Thursday ordered Myanmar to take urgent measures to protect its Rohingya population from genocide.
“Today’s ruling by the ICJ is a crucial moment for Rohingya justice, and vindication for those of us who have lived through this genocide for decades,” tweeted Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.
“The court’s decision clearly shows that it takes the allegations of genocide seriously, and that Myanmar’s hollow attempts to deny these have fallen on deaf ears.”
Human rights organisation Amnesty International said the decision sent a message that the world would not tolerate Myanmar’s “atrocities”.
Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, who led the prosecution, said he was “very, very pleased”.
Thousands of Rohingya died and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh during an army crackdown in 2017.
The measures imposed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are binding and not subject to appeal.
The case was lodged by the African Muslim majority nation of The Gambia. The ruling warned that genocidal actions could recur.
‘Justice Served’: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Hail ICJ Ruling
The United Nations’ top court rejected Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s defence last month when she refuted genocide charges but admitted the country’s military may have used excessive force against the mainly Muslim minority.
The ICJ case was filed by the Muslim-majority African nation of The Gambia, which had asked the court to impose emergency measures following the Myanmar army’s 2017 crackdown that forced around 740,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The ICJ ruling was cheered by refugees as their first major legal victory since they were forced from their homes.
“The ruling has been given. They said a genocide was conducted against us,” said an elderly man at the shop in Kutupalong, one of nearly three dozen Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, which has more than one million refugees according to the latest figures released by the UN.
‘Justice Served to Us’
Mohammad Rasel, 26, remembers he was building haystacks in front of his home in Myanmar’s Maungdaw District when a mob, including local policemen, entered his village in August 2017.
“They fired gunshots and a bullet hit my father and he immediately fell down,” he told Al Jazeera. “All around us were flames and blood-chilling cries of people.”
Rasel’s home was burned. He fled with his brother and mother, leaving his dying father on the yard of their home.
“They killed my father in front of my eyes and I didn’t get any justice for his death,” he said. “This ruling feels like justice has been served to us.”
Abdur Rahim, a 45-year-old Rohingya “majhi” (community leader), also believed “some sort of justice” has been done with the ICJ ruling.
“We are not going to get back the near and dear ones we have lost in that mindless killing spree. No one is going to compensate us for that,” he told Al Jazeera.
“But at least the world has admitted that a heinous crime was conducted against us.”
Rahim hoped the court order will force Myanmar to “stop the atrocities upon our brothers and sisters” still living in Myanmar.
‘Moral Victory of the Humanity’
Imtiaz Ahmed, director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, told Al Jazeera the ICJ ruling was a “landmark”.
Ahmed was at The Hague court in December when the hearings on the Rohingya case began.
“So far, it seems the ICJ has paid heed to the provisional measures sought by [The] Gambia. Now it is up to the Myanmar government to take the measures as per the direction of the ICJ.”
Ahmed said Myanmar has been given four months to report to the court on steps taken to prevent a Rohingya genocide.
“They will be under immense pressure since the whole world is watching now,” he said.
Ali Riaz, distinguished professor of politics and government at Illinois State University in the United States, told Al Jazeera the ICJ order was “a moral victory of the humanity”.
“It has practically proved that Myanmar has committed heinous crimes and is continuing a well-orchestrated policy of genocide against Rohingya,” he said. “It’s also a recognition of the Rohingya community’s existence.”
Riaz said that while ICJ has no mechanism to enforce its ruling on Myanmar, urges the international community to “act now”.
He also asked Bangladesh to launch a “strong diplomatic effort” to convince its “friends like India and China” to pressure Myanmar to ensure the repatriation of refugees “with dignity and safety”.