The Gambia v Myanmar at the International Court of Justice : Points of Interest in the Application

/the-gambia-v-myanmar-at-the-internation

  • The Gambia v #Myanmar at the International Court of Justice: Points of Interest in the Application

    On 11 November 2019, The Gambia filed an application at the International Court of Justice against Myanmar, alleging violation of obligations under the Genocide Convention.

    This legal step has been in the works for some time now, with the announcement by the Gambian Minister of Justice that instructions had been given to counsel in October to file the application. As a result, the application has been much anticipated. I will briefly go over some legally significant aspects of the application.

    On methodology, the application relies heavily on the 2018 and 2019 reports of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM) for much of the factual basis of the assertions – placing emphasis on the conclusions of the FFM in regard to the question of genocide. What struck me particularly is the timeline of events as the underlying factual basis of the application, commencing with the ‘clearance operations’ in October 2016 and continuing to date. This is the same timeframe under scrutiny at the International Criminal Court, but different from the FFM (which has now completed its mandate), and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM). The IIMM was explicitly mandated to inquire into events from 2011 onwards, while the FFM interpreted its mandate to commence from 2011. While these are clearly distinct institutions with vastly different mandates, there may well be points of overlap and a reliance on some of the institutions in the course of the ICJ case. (See my previous Opinio Juris post on potential interlinkages).

    For the legal basis of the application, The Gambia asserts that both states are parties to the Genocide Convention, neither have reservations to Article IX, and that there exists a dispute between it and Myanmar – listing a number of instances in which The Gambia has issued statements about and to Myanmar regarding the treatment of the Rohingya, including a note verbal in October 2019. (paras. 20 – 23) The Gambia asserts that the prohibition of genocide is a jus cogens norm, and results in obligations erga omnes and erga omnes partes, leading to the filing of the application. (para. 15) This is significant as it seeks to cover both bases – that the obligations arise towards the international community as a whole, as well as to parties to the convention.

    On the substance of the allegations of genocide, the application lays the groundwork – the persecution of the Rohingya, including denial of rights, as well as hate propaganda, and then goes on to address the commission of genocidal acts. The application emphasizes the mass scale destruction of villages, the targeting of children, the widespread use of rape and sexual assault, situated in the context of the clearance operations of October 2016, and then from August 2017 onwards. It also details the denial of food and a policy of forced starvation, through displacement, confiscation of crops, as well as inability to access humanitarian aid.

    Violations of the following provisions of the Genocide Convention are alleged: Articles I, III, IV, V and VI. To paraphrase, these include committing genocide, conspiracy to commit, direct and public incitement, attempt to commit, complicity, failing to prevent, failure to punish, and failure to enact legislation). (para. 111)

    As part of the relief asked for, The Gambia has asked that the continuing breach of the Genocide Convention obligations are remedied, that wrongful acts are ceased and that perpetrators are punished by a competent tribunal, which could include an international penal tribunal – clearly leaving the door open to the ICC or an ad hoc tribunal. In addition, as part of the obligation of reparation, The Gambia asks for safe and dignified return of the Rohingya with full citizenship rights, and a guarantee of non-repetition. (para. 112) This is significant in linking this to a form of reparations, and reflects the demands of many survivors.

    The Gambia makes detailed submissions in its request for provisional measures, in keeping with the evolving jurisprudence of the court. It addresses the compelling circumstances that necessitate provisional measures and cites the 2019 FFM report in assessing a grave and ongoing risk to the approximately 600,000 Rohingya that are in Myanmar. Importantly, it also cites the destruction of evidence as part of the argument (para. 118), indicating the necessity of the work of the IIMM in this regard.

    In addressing ‘plausible rights’ for the purpose of provisional measures, the application draws upon the case ofBelgium v Senegal, applying mutatis mutandis the comparison to the Convention against Torture. In that case, the court held that obligations in relation to the convention for the prohibition of torture would apply erga omnes partes – thereby leading to the necessary argument that in fact the rights of The Gambia also need to be protected by the provisional measures order. (para. 127) (For more on this distinction between erga omnesand erga omnes partes, see this post) The Gambia requests the courts protection in light of the urgency of the matter.

    As a last point, The Gambia has appointed Navanethem Pillay as an ad hoc judge. (para. 135) With her formidable prior experience as President of the ICTR, a judge at the ICC, and head of the OHCHR, this experience will be a welcome addition to the bench. (And no, as I’ve been asked many times, unfortunately we are not related!)

    The filing of the application by The Gambia is a significant step in the quest for accountability – this is the route of state accountability, while for individual responsibility, proceedings continue at the ICC, as well as with emerging universal jurisdiction cases. Success at the ICJ is far from guaranteed, but this is an important first step in the process.

    http://opiniojuris.org/2019/11/13/the-gambia-v-myanmar-at-the-international-court-of-justice-points-of-in
    #Birmanie #justice #Rohingya #Gambie #Cour_internationale_de_justice

    • Rohingyas : feu vert de la #CPI à une enquête sur des crimes présumés

      La #Cour_pénale_internationale (CPI) a donné jeudi son feu vert à une enquête sur les crimes présumés commis contre la minorité musulmane rohingya en Birmanie, pays confronté à une pression juridique croissante à travers le monde.

      Les juges de la Cour, chargée de juger les pires atrocités commises dans le monde, ont donné leur aval à la procureure de la CPI, #Fatou_Bensouda, pour mener une enquête approfondie sur les actes de #violence et la #déportation alléguée de cette minorité musulmane, qui pourrait constituer un #crime_contre_l'humanité.

      En août 2017, plus de 740.000 musulmans rohingyas ont fui la Birmanie, majoritairement bouddhiste, après une offensive de l’armée en représailles d’attaques de postes-frontières par des rebelles rohingyas. Persécutés par les forces armées birmanes et des milices bouddhistes, ils se sont réfugiés dans d’immenses campements de fortune au Bangladesh.

      Mme Bensouda a salué la décision de la Cour, estimant qu’elle « envoie un signal positif aux victimes des atrocités en Birmanie et ailleurs ».

      « Mon enquête visera à découvrir la vérité », a-telle ajouté dans un communiqué, en promettant une « enquête indépendante et impartiale ».

      La Cour pénale internationale (CPI) a donné jeudi son feu vert à une enquête sur les crimes présumés commis contre la minorité musulmane rohingya en Birmanie, pays confronté à une pression juridique croissante à travers le monde.

      De leur côté, les juges de la CPI, également basée à La Haye, ont évoqué des allégations « d’actes de violence systématiques », d’expulsion en tant que crime contre l’humanité et de persécution fondée sur l’appartenance ethnique ou la religion contre les Rohingya.

      Bien que la Birmanie ne soit pas un État membre du Statut de Rome, traité fondateur de la Cour, celle-ci s’était déclarée compétente pour enquêter sur la déportation présumée de cette minorité vers le Bangladesh, qui est lui un État partie.

      La Birmanie, qui a toujours réfuté les accusations de nettoyage ethnique ou de génocide, avait « résolument » rejeté la décision de la CPI, dénonçant un « fondement juridique douteux ».

      En septembre 2018, un examen préliminaire avait déjà été ouvert par la procureure, qui avait ensuite demandé l’ouverture d’une véritable enquête, pour laquelle les juges ont donné jeudi leur feu vert.

      Les investigations pourraient à terme donner lieu à des mandats d ?arrêt contre des généraux de l’armée birmane.

      Des enquêteurs de l’ONU avaient demandé en août 2018 que la justice internationale poursuive le chef de l’armée birmane et cinq autres hauts gradés pour « génocide », « crimes contre l’humanité » et « crimes de guerre ». Des accusations rejetées par les autorités birmanes.

      https://www.courrierinternational.com/depeche/rohingyas-feu-vert-de-la-cpi-une-enquete-sur-des-crimes-presu

    • Joint statement of Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands

      Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands welcome The Gambia’s application against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the alleged violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention). In order to uphold international accountability and prevent impunity, Canada and the Netherlands hereby express their intention to jointly explore all options to support and assist The Gambia in these efforts.

      The Genocide Convention embodies a solemn pledge by its signatories to prevent the crime of genocide and hold those responsible to account. As such, Canada and the Netherlands consider it their obligation to support The Gambia before the ICJ, as it concerns all of humanity.

      In 2017, the world witnessed an exodus of over 700,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State. They sought refuge from targeted violence, mass murder and sexual and gender based violence carried out by the Myanmar security forces, the very people who should have protected them.

      For decades, the Rohingya have suffered systemic discrimination and exclusion, marred by waves of abhorrent violence. These facts have been corroborated by several investigations, including those conducted by the UN Independent Fact Finding Mission for Myanmar and human rights organizations. They include crimes that constitute acts described in Article II of the Genocide Convention.

      In light of this evidence Canada and the Kingdom of the Netherlands therefore strongly believe this is a matter that is rightfully brought to the ICJ to provide international legal judgment on whether acts of genocide have been committed. We call upon all States Parties to the Genocide Convention to support The Gambia in its efforts to address these violations.

      https://www.government.nl/documents/diplomatic-statements/2019/12/09/joint-statement-of-canada-and-the-kingdom-of-the-netherlands
      #Canada #Pays-Bas