Few countries are standing up to Myanmar, formerly Burma, for its mistreatment of the Muslim community known as Rohingya. This week, the smallest nation in Africa came to the defense of the persecuted minority, filing a lawsuit that charges Myanmar with genocide.
Cast out of Myanmar, where they claim citizenship, the Rohingya Muslims found temporary shelter in Bangladesh but that country is now unwilling to support the more than 671,000 refugees.
The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar face atrocities committed by security forces, include mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson. Military and civilian officials have repeatedly denied the charges.
Effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingyas are one of the largest stateless populations in the world.
“The aim is to get Myanmar to account for its action against its own people – the Rohingya”, Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told a news conference in The Hague, where the U.N. court is based.
“It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right under our own eyes.”
Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which not only prohibits states from committing genocide but also compels all signatory states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
“Gambia has found a way to turn the international community’s handwringing over the Rohingya into action,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate director of the international justice program of Human Rights Watch.
Tambadou, explaining why Gambia had taken the initiative, said that visiting Rohingya in Bangladesh had reminded him of his work as a prosecutor for the tribunal set up to try those responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
“I thought this was not right and the world cannot just stand by and watch this happen again,” he said, adding the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had asked Gambia to look into how to bring Myanmar to justice over the matter.
In its 46-page filing to the International Court of Justice, The Gambia says Myanmar’s actions were “genocidal in character” and included killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm and imposing measures to prevent births.
SOURCE: Global Information Network