Gambia files Rohingya genocide case against Myanmar at World Court - justice minister

Yasmin Ullah talks to journalists in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, after Gambia filed of a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the United Nations' highest court, accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. (AP)
Updated 11 November 2019

Gambia files Rohingya genocide case against Myanmar at World Court - justice minister

  • Gambia said it was acting on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in bringing the case against Myanmar
  • The lawsuit accuses mainly Buddhist Myanmar of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention through a brutal military campaign targeting the Rohingya

THE HAGUE: Myanmar faced accusations of genocide in a landmark lawsuit filed by Gambia at the UN’s top court on Monday over the Southeast Asian nation’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, Gambia’s government said.
Gambia said it was acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation in bringing the case against Myanmar before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.
The lawsuit accuses mainly Buddhist Myanmar of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention through a brutal military campaign targeting the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.
The 2017 crackdown forced 740,000 Rohingya to flee over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh, in violence that United Nations investigators say amounts to “genocide.”
“The Gambia is taking this action to seek justice and accountability for the genocide being committed by Myanmar against the Rohingya,” Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou said in a statement.

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The court is expected to hold its first hearings in December on Gambia’s request for urgent interim measures “to protect the Rohingya against further harm,” Gambia’s lawyers Foley Hoag said in a statement, describing the case as “historic.”
Human Rights Watch hailed the move by the tiny west African state, saying it was the “first judicial scrutiny” of Myanmar’s alleged crimes against the Rohingya.
Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at HRW, said the court’s “prompt adoption of provisional measures could help stop the worst ongoing abuses” in Myanmar.
The lawsuit asks the ICJ to “order Myanmar to cease and desist from its genocidal acts, to punish the perpetrators, and to provide reparations for the Rohingya victims,” Gambia’s justice ministry said.
It said Myanmar had failed to meet its obligations to prevent and to punish genocide, accusing it of “wanton acts of violence and malicious degradation with the specific intent of state actors to destroy the Rohingya as a group.”
Mainly-Muslim Gambia said it had “stepped up” to file the case on behalf of the rest of the OIC. Tambadou is a former genocide prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and has visited Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.
Other legal attempts to bring Myanmar to justice over allegations of crimes against the Rohingya have so far stalled.
The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court — a separate tribunal from the ICJ that investigates war crimes — launched a preliminary investigation into Myanmar in 2018 but no charges have been filed yet.
UN investigators have also called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the Hague-based ICC or to set up a tribunal, like for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, but again no action has yet been taken.
The ICJ was set up in 1946 after World War II to adjudicate in disputes between UN member states.
It normally deals with issues of international law such as border disputes, but sometimes rules on alleged breaches of UN conventions such as those on terrorism or genocide.
The ICJ previously dealt with a genocide case when Bosnia brought a lawsuit against Serbia over the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
That case ended in 2007 with Serbia being held to have failed to prevent genocide during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and of failing to cooperate with war crimes tribunals.


Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 24 min 41 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.