ICJ orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide

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A Bangladeshi health worker injects vaccine to a Rohingya Muslim boy, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at a refugee camp, Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)

The International Court of Justice Thursday ruled that it has the right and the preliminary jurisdiction to hear a case seeking emergency measures to prevent Myanmar from committing genocide against its Rohingya minority.

The United Nations' top court ordered Myanmar take all measures in its power to prevent genocide against the Rohingya. The court's president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the International Court of Justice ``is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable," reported AP. The court has ordered Myanmar to report back within four months on the steps it had taken to comply with its decision.

The court was hearing a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of Muslim nations that accuse Myanmar of holding a genocidal campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslims in violation of a 1948 convention.

Presiding Judge Yusuf Abdulqawi, in the first minutes of reading the court's decision, said the court does have sufficient jurisdiction to decide on the request for emergency measures in the case, which was brought by Gambia, reported Reuters. "The court concludes that prima facie it has jurisdiction under the Genocide Convention," he said.

Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf is pictured during the ruling in a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar alleging genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population, at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier)

In an opinion piece published in the Financial Times ahead of the initial ruling, Myanmar's civilian leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said "war crimes" may have been committed against Rohingya Muslims but denied genocide, alleging that refugees had "exaggerated" the extent of abuses against them.

She said Myanmar was the victim of "unsubstantiated narratives" by human rights groups and UN investigators. During a week of hearings last month, Suu Kyi had asked the 17-judge panel to drop the case.

Gambia’s legal team had described mass rapes, the burning of families in their homes and killing of dozens of Muslim Rohingya children with knives as it set out its genocide case against the country at the court in December last year. Suu Kyi later responded in the International Court of Justice at The Hague that allegations that the Buddhist-majority country had committed genocide against Rohingya Muslims were “misleading and incomplete”.

(Inputs from agencies)