Discontent Against Myanmar For Rohingya Crisis
Saleem Samad :
Finally, Myanmar will begin to feel the pinch for its failure to provide meaningful accountability for its security forces' widespread and systematic violence and atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state.
Despite global outcry, Myanmar refused to bring to account government and military officials implicated in the genocide, gang rapes, mutilations, and forced eviction by security forces on the Rohingya.
There is growing international frustration among several countries planning economic and legal measures against Myanmar.
The state-sponsored atrocities killed at least 10,000 Rohingya, left scores with physical disabilities, and caused the largest exodus of civilians since the Rwandan genocide. An estimated more than a million Rohingyas are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh for the last two and half years.
Myanmar has demonstrated its defiance against the international move toward meaningful accountability of the demands.
In the past weeks, there were signs of growing international support for the Gambia's International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide complaint against Myanmar.
In response to Gambia's official complaint of Myanmar's violation of the United Nations' 1948 Genocide Convention initiated in November 2019, the Myanmar government statement to the ICJ asserted that the Gambia's allegations were based on "incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation in Rakhine state."
The ICJ delivered a harsh rebuke of that narrative on January 23 by supporting the Gambia's request for urgent provisional measures to protect the Rohingya population while the court undertakes the longer-term judicial consideration of the Gambia's genocide allegations.
That statement peddled by the Myanmar military's long-discredited narrative that its activities in northern Rakhine state in August 2017 constituted legitimate "clearance operations" in response to attacks on police posts by the banned Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi told ICJ justices last December that what transpired in northern Rakhine in late 2017 was mere "an internal armed conflict started by coordinated and comprehensive attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, to which Myanmar's Defence Services responded."
On February 25, Maldives announced that it would file a written "declaration of intervention" at the ICJ in support of the Gambia's genocide complaint.
Maldives' minister of foreign affairs, Abdulla Shahid, said that intervention - the details of which are yet to be made public - demonstrated his country's support for "the ongoing efforts to secure accountability for the perpetrators of genocide against the Rohingya people."
Last November 13, Rohingya and Latin American human-rights organisations filed a case with an Argentine court against Myanmar government and military officials under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows that people implicated in the most serious international crimes may be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted in countries other than their own.
The Argentine court filing seeks "the criminal sanction of the perpetrators, accomplices, and cover-ups of the genocide" perpetrated by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya.
Germany's development minister, Gerd MÃ¼ller, announced that Berlin was suspending development cooperation with Myanmar because of its "ethnic cleansing" of its Rohingya minority.
Although MÃ¼ller didn't specify the financial cost of that suspension, he simultaneously announced an additional German government contribution of â‚¬15 million (US$16.5 million) to support Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee population.
Other states are likely to initiate similar ICJ interventions over the coming weeks, including Canada and The Netherlands, whose governments announced in December that they planned to "jointly assist the Gambia at the International Court of Justice."
The biggest challenge remains with the international effort to trigger an ICC investigation of the atrocities that have been complicated by the fact that Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court.
Unfortunately, an ICC probe through a resolution of the UN Security Council has been stymied by the opposition of Russia and China.
Meanwhile, the UN-created Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar officially began operations in September 2019 to gather evidence of crimes against humanity against Myanmar's ethnic minorities, including, but not limited to, the Rohingya, nationwide over the past eight years.
That message is that Myanmar should stop obstructing Rohingya accountability efforts, or pay the price of pariah-state status synonymous with murderous impunity.
(Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellow (USA) and Hellman-Hammett Award. Twitter @saleemsamad, Email saleemsamad @hotmail.com)