In a highly unusual move, the tiny West African nation of The Gambia on Monday filed a lawsuit against Myanmar, accusing it of perpetrating a genocide on ethnic Rohingya Muslims which forced hundreds of thousands to flee the Asian nation.
The Gambia, with the full support of the 57-member Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), filed the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations’ leading court in dealing with disputes between nations.
“The Gambia hopes by this case, and the OIC hopes by this case, to obtain a judgment from the International Court of Justice — the highest legal authority in the international community, that Myanmar is guilty of the crime of genocide against the Rohingya people,” said Paul Reichler, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who is leading the Gambian legal team.
Such a ruling could take years. In the interim, the lawyers are seeking what is known as “provisional measures” — an order demanding Myanmar stop harming the Rohingyas while the court considers the full case. The judges at The Hague-based court could rule on that as early as next month.
“We are hopeful to get that kind of protection for the Rohingya people very early in the case as a provisional measure so that the genocidal activities that we are seeking to end do not continue during the lawsuit,” Reichler told VOA.
Starting in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled a scorched-earth campaign unleashed by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine state that killed a dozen police officers. Survivors crossed the border into Bangladesh where they gave accounts of massacres, rape, murder and villages burned to the ground.