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Ending Genocide and Mass Atrocities

The Importance of Gambia Invoking Genocide Convention Against Myanmar

Some news about efforts to protect human rights in the world community should be attracting more attention. On November 11, 2019 the Government of Gambia brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague a complaint against the Government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) for violation of the 1948 Convention on Genocide because of its actions against the Rohingya. The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the development of a system of universally accepted standards that promote an equitable system of world law for all members of the human family. Under the rules of the ICJ, all Member States (that includes all countries in the UN) can bring action against other Member States over disputes alleging breaches of international law.

Genocide Must Not Be Ignored

In this case, Gambia is acting as the conscience of the world society. The Attorney General of Gambia, Abubacar Marie Tambadou, said: “The case is to send a clear message to Myanmar and the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of the terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding before our own eyes.”
There have been repeated appeals to make the 1948 Genocide Convention operative world law. The Genocide Convention has mechanisms for dealing with complaints concerning violations. Article VIII says “Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III.”

When the Convention was being drafted, the competent organ of the United Nations was supposed to be the Security Council. However, despite factual evidence of mass killings, some with an intent to destroy “in whole or in part” an ethnic group in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and the Sudan, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has ever called for any action under Article VIII of the Convention. Now Gambia has acted and focused on the highest legal body within the UN system.

Genocide is One of the Crimes on which the International Criminal Court (ICC) Can Act

The International Criminal Court has now opened a preliminary inquiry into Myanmar’s alleged crimes against the Rohingya based on the UN’s 444-page report of the UN-created Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar which said in August 2018 that the Myanmar army’s tactics were “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats” and that “military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assulting children and burning entire villages.”

The action of Gambia is important as it focuses both on the mechanisms of world law and the dramatic conditions of the Rohingya. It is thought that a first session of the ICJ on the Myanmar case will be held in December. It is not yet known what action the ICC will undertake.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

Rene Wadlow and Ronald J. Glossop

Author Rene Wadlow and Ronald J. Glossop

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