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.


Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

Updated 12 December 2019

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

  • The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities
  • Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey

PRISTINA: Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person... Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly €100,000 ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here,” the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring.”
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimizing Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist.”