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.