Rohingya Crisis at ICJ: Plausible outcome and stance of Bangladesh

Published : Tuesday, 17 December, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir 
Rohingya repatriation is still under severe question despite efforts from all around the world. Unfortunately the Myanmar government may not have received enough pressure to solicit the matter yet. Bangladesh has been hosting around a million Rohingya refugees since August 2017 who have fled their homeland under serious oppression and torture which the United Nations termed as ‘ethnic cleansing’. Though the world community significantly contributed in aiding this huge number of refugees on the Bangladeshi soil, they did not pressurize Myanmar to repatriate this homeless group. Hence, the fate of these Rohingyas still remains under question.
The small African, mainly Muslim state of Gambia has taken majority-Buddhist Myanmar to the UN’s top court in The Hague accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN genocide convention. Backed by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Canada and the Netherlands, it is seeking emergency measures to prevent further violence against the Rohingya, pending a fuller case that could take years. Recently, The Gambia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) argued that there is compelling evidence that genocide in Rakhine has occurred, is occurring and is likely to take place in the future, while Myanmar denied such accusations although it acknowledged use of disproportionate force in some instances during the military operations.
The three day long public hearings on provisional measures in the Rohingya genocide case filed by The Gambia against Myanmar with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) came to an end on December 12.Now it is time for the ICJ, The Hague based principal judicial organ of the United Nations, to give a decision after hearing nine hours of deliberations by The Gambia and Myanmar. 
West African nation The Gambia, filed a case with the ICJ against Myanmar on November 11, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in connection with the Rohingya, often described as one of the worst persecuted communities in the world. Filing the case, attorney general and justice minister of The Gambia, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, also asked the ICJ to impose provisional measures as a matter of extreme urgency, to protect the Rohingya against further harm by ordering Myanmar to stop all of its genocidal conduct immediately. Tambadou led The Gambia in the hearings while the Myanmar side was headed by state counsellor Aung San SuuKyi, the de facto head of the government, in the capacity of the foreign minister.
The Court’s decision on the request for the indication of provisional measures will be delivered at a public sitting, the date of which will be announced in due course according to a press release posted on the ICJ website immediately after the conclusion of the hearings. In its application, The Gambia asked for six provisional measures to be ordered by the court, including a halt to acts with genocidal intent by Myanmar and crucially, granting of access to, and cooperation with, all UN fact-finding bodies that are engaged in investigating alleged genocidal acts against the Rohingya.
On the time the ICJ may take to come to a decision, former and serving senior diplomats said that is difficult to predict, but in the case of Bosnia Herzegovina versus Serbia in 1993, the ICJ took a few weeks to order provisional measures. While issuing the ruling, the judges may also allow some of the six provisional measures requested by The Gambia. And, in a worst case scenario for The Gambia, the court may also reject the provisional measures and take the case off the list.
If the ruling of the ICJ comes with the acceptance of some or all provisional measures, the proceedings of the main case may start within a month or two after the issuance of the order following the collection of relevant data and information. The Gambia as well as those who are supporting the efforts to get justice for the Rohingyas expecting minimal a halt to the actions with genocidal intent and ensuring access to Rakhine for all UN fact finding organizations. These two measures will provide certain relief to 0.6 million Rohingyas, still living in Rakhine in a dire state and pave the way for the UN systems to find out what actually against the persecuted community.
Undoubtedly, SuuKyi, a Nobel peace prize winner, has lost her moral high-ground. She had an answer for everything when she was interrogated at Hague, but none of her answers were convincing and it is clear as ever that the Myanmar military did indeed carry out brutal ethnic cleansing operations against the Rohingya population. One of the most blatant lies was her claim that efforts were underway to repatriate the displaced Rohingyas.
Surely, if this were the case, there would be a credible guarantee of Rohingya rights being safeguarded back in Myanmar. This would have to include full citizenship, the right to work, to study, or to travel freely, and most importantly, some sort of reparations must be made for the terrible suffering they have already been made to endure.  And yet, these guarantees are not in place, so it is clear that the offer for repatriation, as it currently stands, is insincere and it is hard to imagine that Suu Kyi is not complicit in the matter.
As for the attacks on Rohingya communities by military personnel, SuuKyi had no better reply than to simply rehash the argument that it was Rohingya groups which attacked the army, causing the army to respond with force. But it is good that at long last, Aung San SuuKyi has taken the stand at The Hague, and it is now up to the International Court of Justice to look at the facts, and make the right decision on what may be the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.
SuuKyi urged UN judges on Thursday to throw out a genocide case against Myanmar, warning it risked reigniting the crisis that forced nearly three quarters of a million Rohingya Muslims from their homes.In her closing arguments after a three-day hearing at the International Court of Justice, Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader issued a stark warning to judges that allowing The Gambia’s case against Myanmar to go ahead could “undermine reconciliation”.
We must praise the effort of The Gambia as they took a strong step to bring Myanmar under justice. We do not know if this will change the fate of the Rohingyas but in the face of ‘silence’ throughout the world, this was a drastic step. Bangladesh by sheltering the huge number of Rohingya people is facing several consequences in the form of economic, ecologic, social and humanitarian challenges. These refugees were received with warmth to save the humanity as Bangladesh could not tolerate this brutality of Myanmar. But the Bangladeshi government always hoped the world community to come forward in pressurizing Myanmar government to ensure their safe repatriation, which did not happen as per the expectation. It is also the weakness of our foreign policy that did not allow us to bring in the opted results.
Bangladesh is trying to repatriate the Rohingya refugees through peaceful negotiations though the intention of Myanmar cannot be termed as ‘hopeful’ in this regard. Though several countries including the US have sanctioned or imposed ban on several Myanmar generals including their Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. But Bangladesh is yet to take any such move though it is the most effected external party of this Rohingya crisis.
Moreover, Bangladesh is maintaining continuous political and diplomatic relations with Myanmar as our foreign minister also recently claimed that Myanmar is our friend and not an enemy. Moreover, even during this ICJ trial, Bangladeshi Army Chief visited Myanmar and met Deputy Chief of Myanmar Armed Forces and its Army Chief Vice Senior General Soe Win. But these friendly gestures on the part of the Bangladeshi government are not working well to settle the future of the Rohingya people.
On many occasions, the government cannot act out of the books for diplomatic reasons as well as the greater welfare of the nation. Usually the opposition party of a nation creates certain pressure on the government to act. Unfortunately, the largest opposition party of our country Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is never vocal on national issues and did not raise their voice for Rohingya repatriation. Rather they are busy is safeguarding corruption as their top leaders are imprisoned or fugitive on corruption charges. The opposition leaders had a constructive opportunity to contribute in protecting national interest but had rather proved them as lame in all aspects.
During the liberation war of 1971, thousands of Bangladeshi refugees took shelter in India and Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India campaigned all around the world to gather global opinion in favour of free Bangladesh. We also need to do the same for the rights of the Rohingyas. Unfortunately, Myanmar is the neighbouring country to both India and Bangladesh but India, one of the greatest power of Asia, is yet to play a strong role like in 1971 to support the oppressed Rohingya people.
Bangabandhu once declared that, Bangladesh will always stand beside the oppressed and tortured people anywhere in the world. We are just celebrating the 49th victory day of Bangladesh and are also chasing Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘golden Bangla’ while people are being oppressed and tortured in our neighbouring countries. We hope Bangladesh will play a vital role in carrying out this promise of the father of the nation.
Strong steps are required to settle the Rohingya repatriation issue as we need more international community support like it was from The Gambia to force Myanmar to conduct the required process. We hope Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with her wisdom and farsightedness will be able to gain the necessary support from the global community and only that may solute the crisis in a peaceful manner. We just hope the Rohingya people receive their rights as they deserve and thanks to The Gambia for taking a bold step.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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