During three days of hearings starting December 10, it will ask the 16-member panel of UN judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to impose “provisional measures” to protect the Rohingya before the case can be heard in full.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since a 2017 military crackdown, which UN investigators found in August to have been carried out with “genocidal intent”. Myanmar vehemently denies allegations of genocide.
The office of Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has said she will lead her country’s defense personally. Myanmar’s legal team is expected to argue that genocide did not occur, that the top UN court lacks jurisdiction and that the case fails to meet a requirement that a dispute exists between Myanmar and Gambia.
Gambia’s request for a provisional injunction is the legal equivalent of seeking a restraining order against a country.
“If the court feels there is sufficient threat and it needs to step in, it can order Myanmar to cease and desist in terms of military operations and violence so that civilians are protected,” said Priya Pillai, an international lawyer with the Asia Justice Coalition, an NGO.