THE International Court of Justice (ICJ) has lived up to its name by dispensing justice of sorts to the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.
The ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court, has granted Gambia’s request for emergency measures in a genocide case against Myanmar brought by the Muslim-majority African country. This is a giant leap for humanity, though the ruling is only a preliminary decision.
It has no impact on the merit of the case. A landmark decision, nevertheless. Understandably, the Rohingya have a mixed feeling about the ICJ decision. There are two reasons for it. One lies in history. Not all of its decisions have been implemented. The reason is obvious: unlike national municipal courts, ICJ has no enforcement powers.
Countries aware of this have ignored ICJ’s rulings in the past with no repercussions. Call it the curse of international law.
The Gambia vs Myanmar genocide case isn’t the first of its kind to make it to the ICJ for a ruling. In 2007, the ICJ ruled that there had been a genocide in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war, but it was all legal talk and no action.
Even after the ruling from the court, Serbian forces continued to massacre Bosnian Muslims. This is the sad fate of provisional measures of a court that has no enforcement powers.
Secondly, geopolitics often trump justice. Myanmar will treat the ICJ decision with contempt. What’s worse, Myanmar will continue with its genocidal ways. Sadly, powerful nations such as China and Russia are encouraging the errant Southeast Asian nation to continue with its criminal ways by investing in the country.
To such nations, profit comes before people. Myanmar is also comforted by the fact that the two permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) would exercise their veto powers should the International Criminal Court place the case of genocide of the Rohingya before UN’s law-making body. UNSC’s shameless history is set to continue in the most “civilised” of centuries. Expect Rohingya Muslims’ lives to be snuffed out with impunity in Myanmar, notwithstanding the binding ICJ decision.
This aside, nations that have some semblance of humanity left in them must continue to speak against such atrocities, not only in Myanmar, but elsewhere too.
They must be named and shamed. Aung San Suu Kyi did a shameless thing by appearing in The Hague to defend the military from the charge of genocide. With thousands of Rohingya dead and 750,000 refugees in Bangladesh and elsewhere, Suu Kyi’s 20-minute defence statement is the strongest evidence of her complicity in the Rohingya genocide.
English newspaper The Guardian, in its editorial, rightly described her move to defend Myanmar at the ICJ as having “torn away any scant remaining shreds of moral credibility from the figure once lauded as a champion of democracy and the fight against oppression”.
Gambia’s Attorney-General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou spoke for us all when he told the court last month: “Another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes, yet we do nothing to stop it. This is a stain on our collective conscience. It’s not only the state of Myanmar that is on trial here, it’s our collective humanity that is being put on trial.”