The International Court of Justice says provisional measures must be implemented to protect Myanmar's Rohingya minority. In 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape violence by Myanmar security forces.
The UN's top court ruled on Thursday that the Rohingya face a "real and ongoing" threat of genocide in Myanmar, and emergency provisional measures should be implemented to protect the Rohingya inside Myanmar.
The provisional measures should be implemented to protect the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar during the next stage of the hearing, said the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The court also ruled that it has jurisdiction over the genocide case and the next stage of the hearing can go ahead.
The Gambia brought the case to the ICJ on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations, accusing Myanmar of genocide during its 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya, which saw 700,000 flee over the border to Bangladesh and thousands of Rohingya were killed and raped as well as burning Rohingya villages.
Maps, satellite images, and graphic photographs were used as evidence during the month-long hearing. Prosecutors said this amounted to a campaign of genocide, violating its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Myanmar must take steps to protect Rohingya
Presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said Myanmar must "take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts" described by the convention. These include "killing members of the group" and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
The panel of 17 judges also was "of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable," said Yusuf.
Myanmar is required to report back to the ICJ within four months and then every six months after until the full case is heard. Hearing the full case could take years.
The ICJ's ruling is binding, however, it has no powers to implement the provisional measures in Myanmar.
Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi rejected genocide claims
Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, rejected claims of genocide on Thursday. Rohingya refugees "exaggerated abuses" and Myanmar was the victim of "unsubstantiated narratives" by human rights groups and UN investigators, she wrote in an opinion article published ahead of the ruling in the UK-based Financial Times.
An Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) panel on Monday found that although Myanmar's security forces were guilty of major abuses there is "no evidence" of genocide.
Background to the case
Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar consider the Rohingya to be "Bengalis" from neighboring Bangladesh, despite having lived in the country for generations. Almost all Rohingya have been denied citizenship in the country since the passing of Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship law, leaving them effectively stateless.
In August 2017, Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group.
Suu Kyi has repeatedly defended her country's actions, saying the military forces were responding to Rohingya insurgents.
kmm/sms (AP, Reuters)