Rohingya, Bangladesh welcome ICJ’s genocide prevention ruling

Rohingya, Bangladesh welcome ICJ’s genocide prevention ruling
In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine State in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Rohingya, Bangladesh welcome ICJ’s genocide prevention ruling

Rohingya, Bangladesh welcome ICJ’s genocide prevention ruling
  • World court sets four-month deadline for Myanmar to comply with verdict

DHAKA: Bangladesh and members of the Rohingya community on Thursday welcomed a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Myanmar to prevent a genocide against the Muslim minority group.

Bangladesh hosts more than 1.15 million Rohingya refugees at 34 camps in the city of Cox’s Bazar. Most fled from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State following a brutal military crackdown.

The ICJ’s judge Abdul Qawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the court believed the Rohingya in Myanmar remained extremely vulnerable and that the country must “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts” that constitute genocide under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

The court also ruled that the Myanmar government should “take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related” to the allegations of genocide. The case against Myanmar for violating the convention was filed in November by Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Members of the Rohingya community welcomed the verdict. 

“The court order will partially serve our purposes at the moment, and it’s a victory for us,” said Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition. 

“Still, we have a long way to go. But, for the first time in the history of our oppression, we got a court order to protect the Rohingyas and it is directed at both the military and Myanmar government. This is a great day for Rohingyas. We thank Gambia for taking this case to the world’s highest court.”

Sayed Ullah, secretary of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, praised the decision of the 17-judge panel and said that it was a “big win” for all of the Rohingya in Bangladesh. 

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said the ruling would stop the recurrence of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the world.

“A victory for humanity, a milestone for human rights activists across all nations. A victory for Gambia, OIC, the Rohingya and of course, for Bangladesh,” he added in the statement.

The ICJ set a four-month deadline for Myanmar to comply with the verdict and ordered it to submit reports on progress every six weeks. It would be tough for Myanmar to disregard the court order, said Prof. Amena Mohsin from the University of Dhaka, as the UN Security Council would try to implement the court’s guidelines and apply pressure on Myanmar’s allies China and Russia.

“Myanmar has taken the ICJ proceedings very seriously, otherwise they would not have sent Aung San Suu Kyi to defend the allegations against the country,” she told Arab News. 

“Besides, on Tuesday, a Myanmar commission also admitted that during the military crackdown in August 2017, there might have been some war crimes against the Rohingyas, which is also a significant development.”

Buddhist-majority Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all of them have been denied citizenship for decades, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

Ambassador Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, described the ICJ verdict as a moral victory.

“I expect that Myanmar will comply with the court order and it will submit development reports to the ICJ according to the guidelines,” he told Arab News. 

“But the reality is that for ICJ there is no enforcement mechanism to check the reality on the ground.” 

China, Russia and to some extent India may try to stop Myanmar from making the situation worse so there were no further allegations, he added. 

In Aug. 2017, when the military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine State in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. There were accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.

Bangladesh has been waiting for a green light from UN inspectors to start the controversial relocation of 100,000 Rohingya refugees to a newly built $275 million island camp.

Although Dhaka says the tiny island of Bhasan Char is ready to begin receiving families, UN technical experts have yet to carry out health and safety checks. 

Bhasan Char is located in the Bay of Bengal and was formed with Himalayan silt in 2006. 

Several international rights organizations have urged Bangladesh not to relocate the Rohingya to the island due to it being in an area prone to cyclones.

One senior diplomat warned that a court verdict was not enough to alleviate the Rohingyas’ suffering. 

“Myanmar’s complying with the court order will not bring the ultimate solution to the Rohingya crisis,” Humayun Kabir told Arab News. 

“Myanmar should have some social and political willingness to repatriate the more than one million Rohingyas who resorted to Bangladesh.”

The court rejected Myanmar’s request to drop the genocide case from its proceedings.


Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 35 min 11 sec ago

Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Reduction means the lowest level of US forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban
  • Taliban welcome the US move, describing it as important in the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in February

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan National Security Council said on Saturday that the reduction of US forces in the country has no major impact on the security situation, as Washington announced it had met its goal of decreasing the number of troops to 2,500.

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

The troop reduction means the lowest level of American forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996.

“The reduction or increase of the American forces does not have any major negative impact on the fighting situation in Afghanistan,” Maulvi Rahmatullah, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, said in a video response to the Pentagon announcement.

However, Afghanistan’s vice president, Amrullah Saleh, said in a BBC interview on Friday that the “pullout risks more violence in the unstable country.”

He added that the American mission, which began 20 years ago, is not yet accomplished and that the US had made a mistake by conceding too much to the Taliban.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have welcomed the US move, describing it as an important step toward the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in Doha, Qatar, in February last year, under which all US-led troops would leave Afghanistan within 14 months.

“We consider the decision as a good and effective step toward the implementation of the Doha agreement. We, the Islamic Emirate, are also committed to all sections of the Doha agreement,” Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News on Saturday.

He said the Taliban hoped that the Doha agreement would be fully implemented and all American forces would leave Afghanistan in the agreed timeframe.

“We consider withdrawal of the troops and leaving Afghan soil as a positive step for the people of the US and Afghans, and welcome it,” Mujahid said.

While acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller said on Friday that the US was planning “further reducing US troop levels to zero by May of 2021,” he added that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based.”

As the Trump administration ends its term when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday, there have been few clues about what the new US government plans are for Afghanistan.