The recent case lodged by The Gambia with the International Court of Justice against Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya is the first time that rape will be prosecuted as genocide at the court, which is based in The Hague. The case has the potential to enhance feminist international law, while reinforcing the need to carry out the global women, peace and security agenda.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs, will lead Myanmar’s delegation to the International Court of Justice for the first hearings in the case, filed in November. Suu Kyi’s decision to lead the delegation, though reasonable given her position in the government, is nevertheless shocking, given both her previous stature as a woman of peace and the worldwide criticism over the treatment of the Rohingya. More than half of the population of the Muslim ethnic group fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid deadly military operations against them more than two years ago.
Because Myanmar is not a state party to the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, and the United Nations Security Council has been unable to refer the matter of the Rohingya to the ICC, justice for these crimes has remained elusive — until, perhaps, now.
The International Court of Justice case is based on breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948. The convention contains a clause giving the court jurisdiction to resolve disputes over the implementation of the convention. Myanmar continues to deny that a genocide occurred, as well as any wrongdoing by its security forces or widespread sexual violence.
The hearings, scheduled for Dec. 10-12, are to decide if the court will order provisional measures to stop potentially genocidal acts by any government forces or related organizations or the destruction of any possible evidence.