Myanmar dossier will be ‘milestone’ in Rohingya genocide case, says report

Myanmar’s military in August 2017 launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Myanmar dossier will be ‘milestone’ in Rohingya genocide case, says report

  • Myanmar's military launched brutal campaign in Rakhine state  

LONDON: A coalition of leading scholars, practitioners and experts have released a report outlining their response to a dossier on the treatment of Rohingya Muslims expected to be filed by Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Saturday.

The report, titled “No Place for Optimism: Anticipating Myanmar’s First Report to the International Court of Justice,” is authored by the Center for Global Policy’s Rohingya Legal Forum (RLF) and contains a foreword by US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes (1997-2001) Prof. David Scheffer.

Scheffer says in the report foreword: “Myanmar’s anticipated report will provide an important milestone in helping the ICJ determine whether genocidal acts have been prevented and evidence of alleged acts of genocide preserved … or whether the government’s report reveals an intention by political and military officials to continue business as usual while claiming it falls outside the ambit of genocide.”

Gambia brought the ICJ case against Myanmar in 2019, when they argued that Myanmar had not fulfilled its obligations as a member country of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide, which places an obligation on member states to prevent and punish genocide.

Myanmar has said it will submit its report, due on Saturday, outlining its claims of compliance with ICJ orders to protect members of its Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority.

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Myanmar’s military in August 2017 launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced about 740,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Authorities in Myanmar have argued the actions of its military against the minority did not constitute genocide, but initial court findings highlighted a need for more information to conclusively confirm that assertion.

The most significant measure taken by Myanmar's government since the court order appears to have been an April 8 presidential directive that all “military or other security forces, or civil services and local people under its control or direction do not commit (genocidal) acts.”

Meanwhile the Rohingya continue to be displaced, living in substandard conditions in one of the most densely populated regions in the world.

The RLF report states that Myanmar will respond within the designated timeframe set out, but will attempt to build a narrative of “war crimes” and move it away from accusations of “genocide.”

It also presents information on what Myanmar has done since 2019, data related to ongoing atrocities, and a discussion on why Myanmar’s response is likely to be insufficient in meeting the requirements of the ICJ.

Prof. John Packer, of the University of Ottawa and Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution who contributed to the report, said on Twitter that he was honored to have shared his expertise.

He added that he was “deeply skeptical of what we foresee Myanmar will pretend to have done to comply with the ICJ-ordered Provisional Measures,” and easily foresaw “obfuscation and diversions.”

Chan Aye, director general of the International Organizations and Economic Department of Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, said Friday the government was working on the report, but would not discuss its contents before submitting it.

Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military, said it had complied with government orders by providing the “complete and necessary information” for the report.


“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 15 min 30 sec ago

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.