Amal Clooney will represent the Maldives in seeking justice for Rohingya Muslims at the UN’s highest court, where Myanmar faces accusations of genocide.
The Maldivian government has said it will join the Gambia in challenging Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya people during an army crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017 that forced more than 700,000 people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
In a unanimous decision in January, the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague imposed emergency “provisional measures” on Myanmar, instructing it to prevent genocidal violence against its Rohingya minority and preserve any evidence of past crimes.
The ruling was an outright rejection of the defence put forward by Aung San Suu Kyi, who attended court in person to defend the military’s actions. In evidence to the court she urged ICJ judges to dismiss allegations of genocide and instead allow the country’s court martial system to deal with any human rights abuses. A final judgement is expected to take years.
In a statement, Clooney, the human rights lawyer and barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London, said: “Accountability for genocide in Myanmar is long overdue and I look forward to working on this important effort to seek judicial remedies for Rohingya survivors.”
Clooney successfully represented former the Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed and secured a UN decision that his 2015 jailing for 13 years was illegal.
She also represented Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 500 days in prison in Myanmar convicted of breaking the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The journalists had been working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men in Rakhine state. They were freed in May 2019.
The Gambia, a predominantly Muslim west African state, took the lead in the legal action when it submitted an application to the ICJ in 2019 alleging Myanmar breached the genocide convention, which was enacted after the Holocaust.
Myanmar is accused over mass murder, rape and destruction of communities during an army crackdown in 2017. A UN fact-finding mission declared that the violence had “genocidal intent”.